SAN MATEO -- Gov. Jerry Brown this afternoon downplayed a Los Angeles television station's report of Caltrans employees using state rental trucks for personal purposes, saying "only God" can watch over every one of the state's hundreds of thousands of public employees.
"Caltrans has been looking at it. I would be glad to look into it," the Democratic governor said after a speech to the California state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"If somebody took some time off to do something, we'll find it, but, you know, to blow it up like it's some major thing -- there are 300,000 employees in the state of California, and I'd like to watch over all of them, but I think only God can accomplish that."
The report, by CBS 2 in Los Angeles, included video surveillance it said showed state workers using rental vehicles to run personal errands during business hours. It included video of a confrontation between Brown and reporter David Goldstein in which Brown said Goldstein is "like a thug."
Asked about that remark this afternoon, Brown said, "I think jumping in your face at the funeral of (former Lt. Gov.) Mervyn Dymally and only wanting to know about something that's in his cellphone that he forces me to look at while he puts a camera in my face and a microphone, I don't think that is the civility and the gentility that I expect from the old CBS network."
Video by CBS appeared to show Brown taking Goldstein's cellphone briefly, before giving it back.
The report comes as Brown campaigns for his Nov. 6 ballot measure to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners. Opponents, who seized earlier this year on a state parks scandal and pay raises for legislative employees to criticize the measure, released an online-only ad today including video from the CBS report.
Brown referred again today to the parks scandal, in which his administration this summer disclosed nearly $54 million in apparently hidden parks money, when he was introduced by Alice Huffman, president of the state conference of the NAACP.
"You were deputy director of parks, right?" Brown asked Huffman, who worked in Brown's administration when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983.
"That's right," Huffman told him.
"Did you ever have any hidden money when you were there?"
The crowd laughed, and Huffman indicated she did not.
"I will tell you something: This woman spent every dime she could get her hands on," Brown said. "We never had a problem of too much money sitting around. But as soon as she left town and I left town, some of these other strange creatures emerged, some ... like to squirrel away funds. But anyway, they're gone now, and we're going to spend that money. It's already being spent."
Brown kept up his criticism of an $11 million donation from a secretive, out-of-state nonprofit group to a committee opposing Proposition 30 and supporting a controversial campaign finance measure, Proposition 32.
"I don't know where these people are from, because they're hiding, they're wearing masks," Brown said. "Remember the people who liked to run around in hoods because they didn't want people to see who the hell they are?"
Asked later if he was referring to the Ku Klux Klan, Brown said, "No."
"What it is, is that when people do things, sometimes they don't want to be exposed for what they're doing," he said. "I think they ought to unmask themselves, yes, or whatever you want to say, come out of the shadows, or tell me their names."