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Chief judge seeks changes in new-courthouse plan

FRANKFORT — Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. suggested improvements Friday to the program through which $880 million has been allocated to build 65 judicial centers across the state.

Minton's suggestions come one month after the Lexington Herald-Leader published a series of articles that questioned oversight of the program.

Advocates say the initiative has brought needed upgrades to Kentucky's courthouses. But critics wonder whether a program to build new judicial centers should outweigh spending cuts in education, and social and judicial services.

"I'm looking for ways to be as transparent as we possibly can be with the process of courthouse construction," Minton said.

Among the major improvements Minton suggested:

■ Request that State Auditor Crit Luallen take a "closer look" at judicial center projects.

"I don't think anybody will object to that," Minton said. "We are perfectly confident in the way these expenditures are made and business is conducted."

■ Put in place a "tracking system" for expenditures for each judicial center project, "so that every penny that's spent on a project would be reflected," Minton said. The system would be on the Administrative Office of the Courts' Web site.

■ Ask the National Center for State Courts to review AOC's administrative procedures for any possible refinements or changes. Those procedures include criteria for construction of new courthouses.

Minton made the suggestions to the Court Facilities Standards Committee. Its 10 members represent the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government, and it includes a county official appointed by the governor.

The committee reviews design plans, cost estimates and financing proposals for new court facilities.

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