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Dept. of Parks and Recreation’s Abuse of Payroll Allegations

Following an investigation by the Sacramento Bee, it came to light that the California Department of Parks and Recreation failed to disclose millions of dollars for more than a decade.

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parksSACRAMENTO–

Furthering the payroll abuse charges against the Department of Parks and Recreation, State Controller John Chiang chastised the division in his review released Tuesday.

Chiang noted that the department was willingly violating state policies, cultivating a climate that upped the chances for abuse and fraud.

“The deliberate disregard for internal controls along with little oversight and poorly-trained staff resulted in improper payouts to Parks’ employees,” said Chiang in a statement. “When security protocols and authorization requirements so easily can be overridden, it invites the abuse of public funds.”

Following an investigation by the Sacramento Bee, it came to light that the California Department of Parks and Recreation failed to disclose millions of dollars for more than a decade.

Investigations found that the department failed to report to the Department of Finance about $20 million in the State Parks and Recreation Funds and another $34 million in the Off-Highway Vehicle Fund.

As a result of the investigation, Governor Brown accepted the resignation of then-Parks Director Ruth Coleman, and directed the dismissal of three senior Parks employees.

Chiang’s review noted that 203 employees managed to get about $520,000 in so-called “out-of-class” compensation. That kind of pay is given when employees do work that is outside of the scope of their hired position.

Thanks to the way the department didn’t lawfully keep track of records, however, it’s hard to see if any of those payments were deserved, Chiang noted.

Chiang’s review recommends, among other things, that the department sets up a new alert system to tell employees and their managers when they are about to exceed the maximum number of hours they can work.

The entire review can be viewed here- http://www.sco.ca.gov/Files-EO/Parks_and_Rec_payroll_review.pdf

Sam Cohen contribute to this report.

Local News
08/03/12

Governor Orders Hidden Funds to be Used to Save Parks

After learning the state’s parks department sat on millions of dollars, California Governor Jerry Brown Friday pledged to use that money to keep some parks open.

“The disclosure that the Parks department had millions in additional revenues is mixed—it’s better to have more money than less, but it’s totally unacceptable for Parks personnel to squirrel away public funds. I extend my deepest appreciation for the donors who have come to the aid of our parks in this time of need. I ask for their patience as we take all necessary steps to make sure this never happens again,” said Governor Brown in a press release Friday afternoon.

He is calling for $20 million of the previously-hidden funds to be used to make critically needed maintenance fixes to keep parks from closing, and also to match donor contributions.

Following an investigation by the Sacramento Bee, it came to light that the California Department of Parks and Recreation failed to disclose millions of dollars for more than a decade.

Investigations into the parks department are ongoing, but found they failed to report to the Department of Finance about $20 million in the State Parks and Recreation Funds and another $34 million in the Off-Highway Vehicle Fund.

Of that $54 million, only the $20 million is eligible for appropriation by the Legislature for parks management, protection or planning.

In recent years, because of budget issues, the parks department has had to announce plans to close around 70 state parks.

As a result of the investigation, Governor Brown accepted the resignation of then-Parks Director Ruth Coleman, and directed the dismissal of three senior Parks employees.

According to a release from the Governor’s office, the Department of Finance is now requiring all departments to follow new procedures to reconcile and confirm balances.

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