The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 21, 2012
Report: California parks department lacks budget controls

A new report has concluded that state Parks and Recreation officials need to rebuild trust and tighten reporting procedures after flawed internal controls gave them room to hide tens of millions of dollars collected from fees, even as they planned to cut services and close facilities for lack of funds.

Department of Finance auditors concluded that Parks needs to more tightly control its budgeting and purchasing procedures. They also concluded that a special department fund that takes in gifts, bequests, and donations also is poorly administered and at risk for abuse.

In a letter that accompanied its assessment, the Department of Finance told Parks Director Anthony L. Jackson to deliver a plan to correct the lapses within 60 days.

Jackson's responses to the criticisms, which are included with the report, generally concur with what auditors found and their recommendations to fix the problems.

The finance report comes just a few days after Controller John Chiang's office released a scathing audit of the department's pay policies that included overpaying some employees.

Parks has come under scrutiny since The Bee reported that officials in the department squirrelled away some $54 million over many years and secretly cashed out employees' leave time. Meanwhile, it cited extreme budget constraints to persuade private-sector interests to give money and resources to keep facilities open.

The audit focuses on Parks' Administrative Services Division at the center of the scandal, which brought down longtime Director Ruth Coleman.

Matt Weiser, the reporter who broke the parks pay scandal, has also taken a look at the Finance audit. Look for even more details from Weiser in Saturday's Bee.

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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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