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Gov. Jerry Brown gave California's 278 state parks a two-year reprieve from closure today in the wake of July revelations that parks officials were hiding funds for years.

The governor signed Assembly Bill 1478, which prohibits the state Department of Parks and Recreation from closing a park until July 2014.

The legislation also provides $10 million to match future contributions from donors who help keep parks open, $10 million for operating costs and $10 million in bond funds for park improvements. An additional $500,000 will fund investigations by various agencies into the state parks department.

Brown had previously threatened to close 70 state parks because he said California could not afford to keep them open. He solicited donations from private contributors, who stepped up to ensure that parks like the Governor's Mansion in Sacramento would operate.

The state Resources Agency announced in July the parks department for years cloaked $20 million in a fee-based parks special fund and $34 million in off-highway vehicle money. Brown and his Department of Finance said they did not know about the extra money until that month.

The announcement came after The Bee reported that a senior parks official had devised an unauthorized buyout of employee leave time. Transcripts of an internal investigation revealed that former deputy director Manuel Thomas Lopez and other parks officials repeatedly found an unexpected surplus at the end of each fiscal year despite the standing threat of park closures.


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