The scandal involving the 1st DCA's "Taj Mahal" courthouse continues, as politicians and administrators play political football in light of Alex Sink's recent audit.
The latest pushback is from the head of the state agency in charge of the construction of state buildings, Linda South, who says basically that the 1st DCA judges constantly meddled with the project:
She said there was a point, early enough in the project, to "put a fence around the design of the courthouse."We may have a little fun from time to time with the bunker by the highway, and there may not be miles of Sapele-wood, flat-screen TVs or gleaming granite countertops, but let me assure you -- our concrete center of justice is completely state of the art.*
Her agency is supposed to be in charge of constructing state buildings, but e-mails show that the DMS and the judges struggled over control. South replaced one agency architect with another after the first one clashed with the judges over control.
The judges wanted veto power over anything the DMS did, a point South refused to concede, though the DMS agreed to notify the judges of everything.
First District Court Judge Paul M. Hawkes, chairman of the court's building committee, objected when he felt the court was not included in even the smallest details.
"We are under the impression that there have been communications where we were not included," Hawkes wrote in a 2007 e-mail. " … We feel it is essential that NO communications occur about this project without us being included."
In February 2008, the judges insisted on firing Tallahassee architects Barnett Fronczak Barlowe because the firm refused to design a building that would cost more than the state had budgeted.
"The judges were unhappy; they wanted more building than they had money to spend," South recalled.
The judges wanted a building with "wow" factor — "worthy of the court and its functions," according to 2007 notes taken by Hawkes' law clerk of early meetings between the architects and judges.
Chris Kise, attorney for Gov. Charlie Crist, attended one meeting and warned the judges that the governor and Legislature supported "a nice courtly facility but not at the expense of the four other DCAs and the Supreme Court," where there are older facilities.
* state of art circa 1974, aka the "Reubin Askew" Florida style manual
Let me ask another question -- why does a courthouse need a "wow" factor?
Whose ego is stoked by such a thing?
As a litigant, I'm perfectly happy with a "nice courtly facility," what's so wrong with that?
(BTW, when we can we get a nice courtly facility?)