Sunday, July 22, 2012

It's In My Other Wallet: State Parks Dept. Hides Millions

The California State Parks Director has resigned after an audit found millions in parks department funds sitting in two "secret" bank accounts controlled by God knows who, and used for God knows  what:

California state parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned and her second-in-command was fired Friday after officials discovered the department has been sitting on "hidden assets" totalling nearly $54 million. 
The money accumulated over 12 years in two special funds the department uses to collect revenue and pay for operations: $20.4 million in the Parks and Recreation Fund, and $33.5 million in the Off Highway Vehicle Trust Fund. 
The money accumulated, state officials said, because the parks department had a pattern of underreporting the actual size of the funds in its regular dealings with the state Department of Finance. 
Why and how this occurred remains a mystery and will be the subject of investigations launched Friday by the Department of Finance and the state attorney general's office, said John Laird,secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, which oversees the state Department of Parks and Recreation and who announced the discovery of the funds on Friday.

Read more here:

Separately, there was another parks department group that was using public money to secretly buy out unused vacation pay from dozens of members of the headquarters staff.

A high-ranking official at the California Department of Parks and Recreation carried out a secret vacation buyout program last year for himself and other headquarters staff, according to an internal audit, former employees and other documents obtained by The Bee. 
The buyouts cost more than $271,000, said Richard Stapler, a spokesman for the California Natural Resources Agency, which oversees the parks department. The money was spent even as the department was planning the unprecedented closure of 70 state parks due to budget cuts. 
The program, in which employees were allowed to sell unused vacation time back to the state, was not approved by the California Department of Human Resources, as required by state law, said Lynelle Jolley, a spokeswoman for the human resources department. Due to the state's precarious budget condition, she said, no vacation buyouts have been approved by the agency since 2007. 
"They definitely did not authorize this," Stapler confirmed.
I love this detail:
To avoid a paper trail, the buyout requests were submitted in some cases only on Post-It notes, not official forms, according to an internal parks department audit obtained by The Bee.

Read more here:

For some reason, everyone is acting like the above are related, but they don't seem to be. The secret buy-out program amounted to $270,000, while the secret accounts contained tens of millions of dollars. Really they just reflect a culture of profound indifference to the public - which considers the parks department to be one of the state's worthiest public services - and to the utter waste of public money. 

The parks - along with the schools, the courts, the prisons, and public safety officers - have taken the brunt of Jerry Brown's budget cuts, even as Dems ramp up spending on high speed rail, DREAM Act scholarships, and state employee pensions. The goal, of course, is to make the public cry uncle so they can keep all the stuff they want (i.e. essential public services) while state Dems keep all that they want (high taxes combined with absurd give-aways to their constituents). 

But, hey, keep voting for Democrats if that's what makes you feel smart and sophisticated. 

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