Secret Stash of Cash Found
SACRAMENTO— Oops. Someone’s been cooking the books. Or absent-mindedly leaving them on the stove too long and toasting the edges a bit.
The California State Parks system had $54 million stashed away and secretly hidden, state officials announced today. The department’s director, Ruth Coleman, has resigned, and her acting chief deputy, Michael Harris, was fired after the discovery, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
The action comes following newspaper and television reports about budgetary irregularities at the California Department of Parks and Recreation dating back to at least 2000. State officials said that the Parks department underreported million of dollars over the past several years and the state Attorney General has launched an investigation into the management of the department. Heads will roll, fat-cat bureaucrats promised.
The state Department of Finance has been ordered to do a thorough audit of the department’s fiscal controls and California Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird has been directed to conduct “a sweeping review” of the State Parks’ management.
Good. $54 million is hard to sweep under the rug otherwise, so a sweeping review review ought to do the trick.
A preliminary investigation into the department’s finances revealed that for at least 12 years the department has underreported tens of millions of dollars to the state Department of Finance. As a result, they weren’t aware that two funds under the State Parks jurisdiction, the State Parks and Recreation Fund and the Off Highway Vehicle Fund, held a whopping $20.4 million and $33.5 million respectively in slushed-away money above the official and most recently reported balances, Governor Jerry Brown’s office said.
But it wasn’t the administration’s fault. Not exactly. You see, the underreporting occurred over the course of two prior gubernatorial administrations, Mr. Brown’s office artfully explained. Officials are spinning a sigh of relief. Whew, that was a close one.
Following the sacking, California Natural Resources Agency Undersecretary Janelle Beland was appointed by Mr. Brown as acting interim director of State Parks. The Governor has directed her to promptly report to him and Secretary Laird on further actions that should be taken to “ensure that the Department is being managed with honesty, accountability and transparency.”
That’s always a good thing to do after a proper sacking. Otherwise, your head is next on the honesty chopping block. That’s the beauty of the merit system. If ”Those responsible have been sacked’ doesn’t work, then ‘Those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked have been sacked’ certainly will.
According to the Los Angeles Times Blog, “The announcement means the department has plenty of cash, even though it has been threatening the closure of State Parks while soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations in what was thought to be a desperate scramble to keep parks open.”
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Finding lost money is always wonderful thing. $54 million? Yahoo! The beleaguered parks system was facing $22 million in budget cuts. Pennies from heaven! Raises for everyone!