The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

January 22, 2013
Read transcripts from the California parks budget probe, part 3

This is the third and final batch of interview transcripts from the state attorney general's investigation of the budget scandal at the California Department of Parks and Recreation. For context, read Bee reporter Matt Weiser's Monday story, which looks at whether state employees who hid the money broke any laws.

130107 natural_resources_logo.jpgYou'll find the first batch of transcripts here and the second batch here.

Along with this final set, the transcripts comprise the bulk of more than 2,000 pages of investigation documents provided by the Natural Resources Agency, which oversees the parks department.

Perez, Tony Interview 92612 Redacted.pdf
Robertson, Aaron Interview 82212.pdf
Romero, Paul Interview 92412 Redacted.pdf
Saxby, Dave Interview 82712.pdf
Slaughterback, Olaya Interview 9412.pdf
Stearns, Roy Interview 92512.pdf
Sturm, Kirk Interview 92812 Redacted.pdf
Sturm, Kirk Interview 10312.pdf
Summers, Jason Interview 92512.pdf
Taylor, Cheryl Interview 83012.pdf
Veliquette, Mary Interview 92412.pdf
Verardo, Denzel Interview 92412.pdf
Wright, Mary Interview 10312.pdf

This link opens a sacbee.com page dedicated to The Bee's state parks coverage.

IMAGE: www.resources.ca.gov

January 21, 2013
Read interview transcripts from the parks budget investigation

Today's report by The Bee's Matt Wieser asks an important question about state parks officials who hid $20.5 million in surplus funds:

Were any crimes committed, and if so, will anyone be held to answer?

130107 natural_resources_logo.jpgAs a supplement to Matt's reporting on parks, The State Worker is posting interview transcripts and other documents that trace the state attorney general's investigation of the matter. More than 2,000 pages of investigation documents have been made public by the California Natural Resources Agency.

Click here to see the first batch of interview transcripts. Here's the second:

January 9, 2013
View parks' budget investigation interview transcripts

130107 natural_resources_logo.jpgAmateur sleuths, break out your magnifying glasses.

We've received inquiries about whether The State Worker will post documents from the attorney general's recent investigation of the parks department's budget-reporting scandal, since we posted more than a 1,000 pages from an earlier investigation of its secret leave cash-out program.

This time we'll batch together links to interview transcripts provided by the California Natural Resources Agency , which has made more than 2,000 pages of documents available.

Here are the first 12 transcripts, including the interview with former director Rusty Areias, of more than 40 released by the agency:

January 4, 2013
California attorney general releases parks investigation results

Attorney General Kamala Harris' office has released its investigation into how and why the Department of Parks and Recreation hid tens of millions of dollars in special funds for at least 15 years.

Bee reporter Matt Weiser, who broke the story last summer, has a breaking news story here.

Our sister blog, Capitol Alert, has an executive summary of the investigation at this link. Watch for more news in tomorrow's cyber/fiber Bee.

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.

October 15, 2012
The parks investigation: Park law enforcement official didn't think employees would return leave cash

In response to blog user requests, The State Worker has posted dozens of state Parks and Recreation documents released by the Natural Resources Agency that lay out an investigation this year into a secret leave buyback program. We realized this month that an interview transcript of one other parks employee was not part of the batch we received.

When The Bee asked about the transcript, the agency promptly turned over the reacted document. In the interest of being thorough, we're posting the transcript here. We've already added it to our parks investigation document index.

Person interviewed: Tina Williams
Job: Parks and Recreation division chief, law enforcement and emergency services
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Mar. 28, 2012
Notable quote: "Good luck with that." -- Williams recollection of her thought when her supervisor, Manuel Lopez, suggested that an employee complaint about the leave buyback program could force employees to return cashouts they had received.

September 23, 2012
Why we posted California parks documents, available here

A few blog users have asked why The State Worker has posted more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports released by the California Natural Resources Agency that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

The agency released the documents after The Bee's Matt Weiser broke the leave credit purchase story, which evolved into a revelation that parks had squirreled away $54 million while also preparing to close facilities and seeking private-sector donations and partnerships.

The impact of the story has spilled over into the political debate over Proposition 30, a tax measure on the November ballot that Gov. Jerry Brown supports.

The documents we've posted over the last month provide a rare window into state's self-policing infrastructure and touches on many issues: cronyism, the impact of retiree turnover, state management, budget management, retired annuitants and the chain of command. Still, "Does anybody even read them?" one person asked in an email.

Yes, they do. Parks is one of the biggest departments in California state government, and feedback we've received indicates that the series is particularly well-read by those employees. Some users have said they read the interviews like an unfolding novel. Many readers, both in and out of government, have responded positively to the series and weighed in with comments and questions that will undoubtedly shape future stories.

Beyond that, posting public records from the investigation helps hold public servants accountable and deters future misdeeds.

This post concludes the series by responding to several users' requests for a single item with links to all the documents. We've organized them in alphabetical order after the jump.

September 19, 2012
The parks investigation: The final report

Here's the final state investigators' report on the leave buyback scandal at the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

The report is among the more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and audits released by the Natural Resources Agency that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at parks during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee's Matt Weiser broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.

Lopez Investigation 2012-5-1 r

September 14, 2012
The parks investigation: Media coverage a rationale for buying down leave

Person interviewed: Tim Wood
Job class: staff services manager II
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 16, 2012
Notable quote: "There was an article that came out in the paper at that time talking about state employees and the fact of their leave cash outs. When they retire, how many hours they have on the books, looking at the picture from the Sacramento Bee perspective. They were hitting on individuals working in Corrections that were at, like, 900,000 (dollars)." -- Wood explaining how media coverage of state leave costs was discussed in a key meeting that led to the parks unauthorized buyout program (transcript page 17).

The California Natural Resources Agency released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out scheme, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the latest in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.
Wood Interview 2012-2-16

September 12, 2012
The parks investigation: Administrator reprimanded for going along with leave buyouts

Person interviewed: Dave Saxby
Job: parks administrative services assistant deputy director
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Dates of interviews: Feb. 15, 2012, and April 25, 2012
Notable quote No. 1: "I said I can understand that you can do buy back for excess hours but just to help somebody, (I) said what would be our logic if ... somebody comes and puts a microphone in our face, what do we say? ... I personally can't think of anything and I said you're crazy if we do that." -- Saxby's account of his advice to Manuel Lopez to resist requests to allow employees in financial hardship to participate in the parks leave buyback program even if their hours didn't exceed the state's 640-hour cap. (See February transcript page 22.)
Notable quote No. 2: Most people were scared of him, wouldn't tell him the truth. ... People don't like being yelled at." -- Saxby's description of Lopez's "dysfunctional" management style. (See April transcript page 28.)

Saxby, a long-time state employee, received a formal reprimand for neglect of duty, misuse of state property and other failure of good behavior. Parks officials said that he knew, or should have known, that the leave scheme needed state approval and shouldn't have assumed the program had received it. We've posted the Notice of Adverse Action along with Saxby's two interview transcripts.

The California Natural Resources Agency released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.

September 12, 2012
The parks investigation: Lopez said he was cashing out leave, encouraged same

Person interviewed: Ted Novack
Job: senior parks and recreation specialist
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 24, 2012
Notable quote: "The comment was that you should take advantage of this because I'm going to." - Novack recalling encouragement by Manuel Lopez, the deputy director at the center of parks covert leave buyback program, for managers in a meeting to cash out their leave. Novack didn't participate because, he told investigators, he didn't need the money and preferred to take the time off.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.
Novack Interview 2012-2-24

September 11, 2012
The parks investigation: Employee's leave buyback processed in one day

Person interviewed: Kevin Smith
Job:
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Mar. 9, 2012
Notable quote: "The next day." -- The amount of time it took for Smith to get a leave buyout check of about $2,400 once he provided proof of financial hardship to Paris Jackson, his manager in the parks administrative division. (See transcript page 12.)

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.
Smith Interview 2012-3-9

September 10, 2012
The parks investigation: Staff complained about HQ leave buyouts while field was 'bleeding'

Person interviewed: Lisa Ortega
Job classification: accounting administrator II
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 24, 2012
Notable quote: "So somebody brought that up ... that admin was buying leave while the field is bleeding." -- Ortega's account of what a parks superintendent said in a meeting when attendees were asked to describe unethical behavior in their departments. (See page 17)

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.
Ortega Interview 2012-2-24

September 4, 2012
The parks investigation: Covert leave cashouts put manager in 'awkward position'

Person interviewed: Sedrick Mitchell
Job: deputy director of external affairs, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 16, 2012
Notable quote: "I expressed my disappointment that, one, we would be going down a path at this time, it puts us in an awkward position ... I've been telling my teams all along that we were going to be ... coming in under budget, that we had to make sacrifices, that the department was taking severe cuts and why are we doing this. And I said this is just another example of policies that are being put in place and ... I find out about it later ..." - Mitchell's reaction to learning about the parks' covert leave buyback program after he had been told -- and told a subordinate -- that no such program existed.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents accessible to the public.
Mitchell Interview 2012-2-16

September 4, 2012
The parks investigation: The problem with state workers' big leave balances

Person interviewed: Rachele Manges
Job: budget manager, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Mar. 9, 2012
Notable quote: "(T)his department does have a problem all the time where we have employees that get huge payouts that we're not anticipating and then, you know, it could put us over budget with the tighter budget constraints. It's really going to be an issue this year -- and next." - Manges, on transcript page 9, explaining a rationale for the parks' leave buyback program.

The California Natural Resources Agency released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program. The report triggered a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities because it lacked funds.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those documents readily accessible to the public .
Manges Interview 2012-3-9

September 2, 2012
The parks investigation: Assistant describes parks official's worry over state audit

Person interviewed: Katerina Jose
Job : administrative assistant, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Mar. 9, 3012
Notable quote: "You can tell with him ... he turns red, you know ..." - Jose's comment (on transcription page 26) about how she knew her boss, parks personnel officer Jason Summers, was upset that the department was being audited.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those documents readily accessible to the public.
Jose Interview 2012-3-9

September 2, 2012
The parks investigation: Employee 'furious' to learn about covert leave program

Person interviewed: Delores Mejia
Job classification: associate government program analyst, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 16, 2012
Notable quote: "So I was furious. And I go, you know, that's kind of unfair because, you know, knowing that we're going through a budget crisis, knowing that we weren't allowed to buy supplies and, you know, to do this and that." - Mejia's recollection of her reaction to finding out a parks employee had cashed out $18,000 worth of leave. After asking her supervisor why some employees got leave money and others didn't, Mejia was allowed to cash out 60 hours of leave time.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents accessible to the public.
Mejia Interview 2012-2-16

August 31, 2012
The parks investigation: Official says parks managers told to keep quiet about leave buyouts

Person interviewed: Mike Flores
Job classification: Data Processing Manager III, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Mar. 28, 2012
Notable quote: "During the meeting, after it was introduced, we usually have ... discusion. And I think I would have to say that it was brought up that maybe it would be best, you know, to keep it quiet." - Flores response, transcribed on page 17, when asked whether managers at a June 2011 parks managers' meeting were told to keep a leave buyback plan secret.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011. The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the parks investigation documents readily accessible to the public.

Flores Interview 2012-3-28

August 31, 2012
The parks investigation: Investigators talk with department's No. 2

Person interviewed: Michael Harris
Job: Acting chief deputy director, State Parks
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview:Feb. 24, 2012
Notable quote: "My immediate thought was there was a large lapse of judgment at the very least. A large lapse of judgment serious enough that ultimately we relieve Manuel of his CEA duties." - Harris recalling his thoughts when he first heard of the parks covert leave buyback plan hatched by Deputy Director Manuel Lopez. The quote is found on page 14 of the transcript.

Note: The leave scandal cost Harris his job. He received this termination letter from the department on July 20. The effective termination date was Aug. 9.

This post is part of a series intended to make public all of the documents released by the California Natural Resources Agency's investigation of the leave covert cash out of leave time by parks employees in the summer of 2011, even as it was preparing to close facilities for lack of funds.

Harris Interview 2012-2-24

August 31, 2012
The parks investigation: Personnel officer recounts leave buyback debate

Person interviewed: Paris Jackson
Job: Assistant personnel officer, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 16, 2012
Notable quote: "There was like, no we can't do this. Yes, we can. No, just over 640. Okay. We'll do those who are under as well. Then it was like, no, we're not doing it." - Jackson recounting a debate between parks administration services management over whether the division could buy back accumulated employee leave time. (Transcript page 23.)

Investigators say Jackson manipulated the payroll system to obscure the payouts as overtime and backdated some entries to circumvent controls. As a result of her role in the leave buyback program, the department cut her pay 5 percent for one year. Click here to read the Notice of Adverse Action against her.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural Resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those documents accessible to the public.

Jackson Interview 2012-2-16

August 30, 2012
The parks investigation: Deputy director hid money, budget manager says

Person interviewed: Cheryl Taylor
Job: Caltrans budget manager
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: April 12, 2012
Notable quote: "Manuel gets to decide every year what he's going to report." - Taylor's assessment former parks deputy director Manuel Lopez decided how much money the parks department reported to the Department of Finance each year. (See transcript page 38 below.)

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.

Taylor Interview 2012-4-12

August 30, 2012
The parks investigation: State official says she warned against leave buyouts

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of the parks documents readily accessible to the public.

Person interviewed: Helen Carriker
Job classification: Deputy director, Department of Fish and Game
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview:Mar. 29, 2012
Notable quote: "I said you can't do that without getting approval to do it. That's something you just cannot do. It's, you know, a big deal. It's union issues and all sorts of stuff. You can't just pay it." - Carriker's recollection, transcribed on page 6, of what she told Manuel Lopez and another parks official when they asked about the propriety of buying back staff leave time.
Carriker Interview 2012-3-29

August 30, 2012
The parks investigation: Parks accounting chief explains why leave cash outs were kept quiet

Person interviewed: Dorothy Kroll
Job : Accounting chief, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 26, 2012
Notable quote: "I knew why." - Kroll explaining to investigators that she assumed that parks Deputy Director Manuel Lopez didn't want anything about his leave buyout plan for administrative managers communicated via email because word might leak out to other employees. (Transcipt page 15 and following.)

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011. A Bee report about the program led to the revelation that parks had squirreled away millions of dollars, part of which paid for the leave buyouts.

This post is part of a series intended to make all of those documents readily accessible to the public.

Kroll Interview 2012-2-16

August 29, 2012
The parks investigation: Parks executive says he declined leave buyout for tax reasons

Person interviewed: Alan Friedman
Job classification: Chief information officer, State Parks
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview:Feb. 23, 2012
Notable quote: "Well, I'm a CEA II and so I pay a significant amount in taxes. ... Getting a buyout is just going to create (an) additional tax load on me ... and to me it's ... going to make much more sense to ... transfer that money into a 401(k) and a 457 plan." - Friedman, as quoted on page 13 of the transcript, explaining why he didn't participate in the parks covert leave buyout plan.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011. The Bee's investigation of the program led to a revelation that the department had squirreled away millions of dollars while threatening to close facilities for lack of funds.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those documents readily accessible to the public.

Friedman Interview 2012-2-23

August 28, 2012
The parks investigation: Parks manager details how leave payouts dodged payroll controls

Person interviewed: Ronette Martinez
Job: Staff services manager I, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 23, 2012
Notable quote: "I just told my boss that because I know that." - Martinez explaining that she told Paris Jackson, a parks assistant personnel officer, how to key in the deparment's under-the-radar leave cashouts to circumvent state payroll processing controls.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program. The report spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to lack of funds.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of the documents readily accessible to the public.

Martinez Interview 2012-2-23

August 28, 2012
The parks investigation: Parks employee explains her 200-hour leave cash out

Person interviewed: Karyn Lombard
Job: Training specialist, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Mar. 29, 2012
Notable quote: "I believe he said, it's your money anyways." - Lombard, on page 12 of the transcript, recalling what parks Personnel Officer Jason Summers said when she thanked him for a 200-hour leave cashout she received.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program. The report spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to lack of money.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those 38 documents readily accessible to the public within the next few days.
Lombard Interview 2012-3-29

August 27, 2012
The parks investigation: Resources official said he 'assumed' leave buyouts followed protocol

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those documents readily accessible to the public.

Person interviewed: Patrick Kemp
Job: Assistant secretary for administration finance, Natural Resources Agency
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Mar. 29, 2012
Notable quote: "I just assumed he, you know, if he was going to do it just went out and did -- did the proper process." - Kemp's recollection of his thoughts after telling parks Deputy Secretary Manuel Lopez in the summer of 2011 that a leave buyback program would need approval from the state's finance and personnel departments. (Transcript page 11.)
Kemp Interview 2012-3-29

August 27, 2012
The parks investigation: Personnel manager distanced himself from leave scandal

Person interviewed: Jason Summers
Job: personnel manager, parks and recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Dates of interviews: Feb. 15, 2012 and April 25, 2012 (click the link below to view both transcripts.)
Notable quote: "Well, if there's an excuse now would be the time to come up with it, I must say." - Murphy pressing Summers, quoted in the April 25 transcript on page 20, to explain how he was so removed from the leave buyback "situation" as it developed at parks.

Note: Summers eventually was demoted for, among other things, portraying himself to investigators as having "bowed out" of the leave buyback process when he was involved and for "inexcusable neglect of duty to assure the legality of the program." Click here to see the department's notice to Summers of his demotion from staff services manager III to staff services manager II.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public .

August 22, 2012
The parks documents: the Elsie Brenneman interviews

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those 38 documents readily accessible to the public within the next few days.

Person interviewed: Elsie Brenneman
Job classification: Parks budget officer
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interviews:Feb. 23, 2012, and Mar. 9, 2012 (click the link below to access)
Notable quote: "I just figured -- I assumed it was there personal information so why would they feel the need to share it, but if they wanted to, it was their information." - Brenneman on page 17 of the Feb. 23 interview explaining why she spread word of the parks leave buyout plan verbally and not in writing.
Brenneman Interview 2012-2-23

August 22, 2012
The parks investigation documents: Robert Bonner interview

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those 38 documents readily accessible to the public within the next few days.

Person interviewed: Robert Bonner
Job classification: State Parks labor relations manager
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview:Feb. 24, 2012
Notable quote: "The 'gray zone' is -- my understanding is those areas of policy that aren't really detailed in policy. ... And that's an area, you know, you certainly want to be careful because while there are no guidelines for how you're operating, for your -- one way or another, you can certainly get yourself into some problems." - Bonner's explanation on page 17 when asked whether he was familiar with the term, "the gray zone."
Bonner Interview 2012-2-24

August 21, 2012
The parks investigation documents: Lynn Black interview

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those 38 documents readily accessible to the public within the next few days.

On Feb. 23, 2012, investigators interviewed Lynn Black, who had been an administrative assistant to parks Deputy Director Manuel Lopez before he was demoted. In her seven years on the job at the time of the interview, "I've had seven bosses in seven years," she said.

The interview dissects meetings and conversations about the leave program. At one point Black says that other divisions in parks had heard about the leave program. After Lopez left his deputy position, he called Black to thank her for a favor she did for him. During the conversation, Black recalled, Lopez said, "I feel like I let everybody down."

Click here to read the Lynn Black interview.

August 21, 2012
The parks investigation documents: Read the audit

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those 38 documents readily accessible to the public within the next few days.

Authur J. Lee, the parks department audits office chief, made several findings in this 14-page report:

• Parks leave buyback was not properly authorized by the state's human resources department.
• The personnel service section of the parks department executed a similar $197, 937 leave cash out in 2008. Like the latest cash out, that one lacked sufficient documentation and "does not appear to be in complete compliance" with state rules.
• The department also launched a questionable leave buyout plan for Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation division that paid $111,645, including $20,598 paid to a superintendent.
• Leave payments were taken out of money budgeted for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Auditors were "astonished" that Manuel Thomas Lopez, chief of the administrative services division and the person who launched the leave buyback plan, cashed out more that four weeks of vacation pay in August 2011 using 2011-12 budget dollars after cashing out nearly nine weeks of leave for $19,135 a few months earlier.

Parks Personnel Officer Jason Summers responded to the audit in a letter dated Mar. 27, 2012:

"As a result of the finding and recommendations in your audit report, the Personnel Section and Administrative Division have taken the following actions to improve processes and procedures regarding leave buy back as well as clarify and communicate to staff the Division's expectations for professional excellence, integrity and personal responsibility.

On Aug. 3, Summers was demoted for his involvement. He and two other parks officials were disciplined for "inexcusable neglect of duty," "misuse of state property" and "failure of good behavior" for their roles in the leave scheme.

Audit of Internal Controls Over Leave Buy Back



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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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