The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

March 1, 2012
Lawmakers hammer Corrections official for lack of accounting

Lawmakers lit into a California state prisons official Wednesday afternoon for his department's failure to account for its spending -- twice.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, called his budget subcommittee to order and then quickly skipped down to the second issue on the agenda, an update on why the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation hasn't produced spending reports that the Legislature demanded when it gave CDCR an extra $380 million last year.

As Cedillo and other angry assemblymembers at the hearing noted, the extra money went to Corrections while programs for the elderly, the sick and children all suffered cuts.

But after years of what amounted to fictional cost estimates and perpetually blown budgets for the state's most expensive agency, Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers agreed to a 2011-12 budget that gave the $9 billion-plus department the extra money. According to figures provided to The Bee by Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Bob Blumenfield's office, it was the fourth year in the past five that the Legislature kicked up extra money to cover CDCR's overspending. The augmenting funds totaled nearly $3 billion.

Last year, hoping to get costs under control, the Legislature added reporting strings to the money. The first report was due within 75 days of the budget's enactment last June. A second report is due today. Corrections hasn't produced any information yet.

Wednesday, an impatient Cedillo and Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, took turns lecturing and quizzing Scott Carney, CDCR's deputy director of financial services, about his department's failure.

"What are you doing to get this report?" Cedillo asked. "Someone needs to be in charge of this. ... $380 million isn't chump change."

"We're doing our best to get that out as soon as possible," Carney said, refusing to throw staff members under the bus. He blamed the delays on everything from CDCR's realignment to staff vacancies in his unit.

"We've heard this story before," Alejo said. "Now here we are, six months later. ... This is a very small request."

Carney said that CDCR isn't "projecting a deficiency at this time," but it still has several steps to take before it can give lawmakers the information that they want.

"When can we we get it?" Alejo asked.

Carney: "Very soon."

Alejo: "Two to three weeks? I find that unacceptable."

Later, Cedillo said, "I want you to give me a date."

"A 30-day window seems reasonable," Carney said. "If there are any problems, I'll let you know sooner rather than later."

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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