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stateparks.JPGPayroll practices at the state Department of Parks and Recreation should get more scrutiny now that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed Assembly Bill 757.

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, wrote the legislation following an investigation by The Bee last year that revealed a secret vacation buyout program offered to some parks department employees. The buyouts -- which violated state regulations -- cost taxpayers more than $271,000 at a time the state was considering closing parks because the budget was so tight. Later, the department admitted it had also hidden $54 million from state budget officials.

The Bee's investigation triggered a review by the state controller, who found that parks officials routinely violated rules on how long employees can work outside their job classification, potentially costing taxpayers even more. The controller's audit issued a number of recommendations on how the department should improve its payroll practices.

AB 757 requires the department to report to the Legislature by the middle of next year on its progress toward implementing the recommendations in the controller's audit.

PHOTO: The Irvine-Fern Canyon Loop in the Prairie Creek Redwood State Park features trails that wind between some of the coast's biggest redwoods, leading to the ocean. The Sacramento Bee/Sam McManis.


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