Sunday, August 19, 2012

CA parks department sought to spend extra money - Sacramento Bee

The state Department of Parks and Recreation searched for ways to spend extra money every year despite facing the threat of park closures and forgoing upkeep at its 278 properties, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Newly released transcripts from an internal investigation show a department that wanted to keep secret a reserve of its own special funds to hedge against future financial problems, according to the Sacramento Bee ( The department spent as much state general fund money each year as it could.

Brown's administration said last month that the parks department had long hidden $54 million without reporting it to the Department of Finance and state lawmakers, who have constitutional authority over spending in California.

An internal audit found the department carried out a secret vacation buyout program for some employees about the same time the agency planned to close 70 state parks due to budget cuts.

Finance officials and the state Department of Justice are investigating further. Longtime state parks director Ruth Coleman and other top officials resigned last month.

The state parks department is funded by fee revenues and taxpayer dollars. Former state parks budget director Cheryl Taylor suggested park officials kept a hidden surplus because they feared lawmakers would slash the share of department funds that comes from taxpayers, according to documents reviewed by the paper.

At least two officials have said the practice of quickly burning down budgeted funds each June was widespread in California government, the paper said.

"Well, I've been around the fiscal world long enough to know that you don't leave unexpended authority if you can avoid it," said Michael Harris, who testified as part of the internal investigation and has since been fired as acting parks chief deputy director.

What You Should Know About Comments on is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "Report Abuse" link to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

• Don't flag other users' comments just because you don't agree with their point of view. Please only flag comments that violate these guidelines.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "Report Abuse" link to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them.

No comments:

Post a Comment