Scandal: State parks finds $54 million in its pocket

State parks director resigns, acting deputy director fired

Remember all that hullabaloo about closing all the state parks? "Nevermind," say state-park officials.

State parks officials have a mountain of explaining to do--as the park system reportedly had $54 million hidden in its coffers at the same time it was threatening to close down 70 parks due to lack of funds.

California parks director Ruth Coleman resigned Friday morning when news broke that the parks department had been under-reporting tens of millions of dollars over the course of more than a decade. Following Coleman's departure, acting Deputy Director Michael Harris was fired.

The Governor has ordered the state Department of Finance to conduct an investigation, and Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird says he has been told to conduct "a sweeping review" of Parks' management; the Attorney General's office will be conducting an investigation, as well, he said.

Coleman reportedly has denied knowing anything about the shadow funds until, she says, it was revealed a few days ago via an internal investigation by her staff.

Gov. Brown's belt-tightening plan to close 70 parks was said to save the state an estimated $22 million. The majority of those parks were spared closure as of the July 1 deadline thanks to community volunteers and private donations.

Marin state Assemblyman Jared Huffman has dedicated a large chunk of his last two years in the Assembly trying to find ways to keep Marin's state parks open--Tomales Bay, Olompali, Samuel P. Taylor and China Camp state parks were on the closure list. Earlier today, before the news of the scandal broke, the nonprofit group Friends of China Camp received an "early entry" permit to take over operations of the historic China Camp State Park. All these efforts, it seems, were largely unnecessary.

In a statement Friday, Huffman described himself as frustrated and shocked to learn the state parks officials had been "dishonest about their bottom line."

"As we've dealt with the parks funding crisis, I've repeatedly expressed my concern about the lack of transparency and the fortress mentality at State Parks," said Huffman.

"The only good news I can see from this scandal is that it will bring much-needed transparency, accountability, and a serious 'reset' to an agency that desperately needs it," he said.

The scandal could also have a ripple effect beyond the state park system--on Tuesday, July 24 the Marin County Board of Supervisors is expected endorse a proposed initiative on the November ballot for a countywide quarter-cent sales tax increase to fund local parks and agricultural land preservation. It's unclear if hidden-funds quake in Sacramento will lead to aftershocks at the local level.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Danville
on Jul 24, 2012 at 6:41 am

This should come as no surprise to all of us that see giant government bureaucracy fraught with mismanagement and financial ineptitude. This is one of those cases where you want to introduce the right hand to the left as they act as if they have never met. If you want to find a place to work where solid management is frowned on, if job security is guaranteed no matter the level of incompetence then becoming a government worker is the place for you!

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Posted by Citizen Paine
a resident of Danville
on Jul 24, 2012 at 8:22 am

Oh, come on, Bill -- is this anything other than a knee-jerk reaction? Government = bad, blah blah blah. Do you have any specific info as to why or how this happened?

To me, this is not a normal "waste, fraud & abuse" situation -- it's not even a garden-variety embezzlement, because the money was just sitting there. It's now available, apparently. It certainly indicates that the bean counters were asleep at the switch, but that doesn't go to the heart of what makes this fascinating.

Does ANYbody know WHY the senior staff of Parks sequestered this money?

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Posted by Louise
a resident of Danville
on Jul 24, 2012 at 9:25 am

Who cares why they didn't, couldn't or wouldn't find the money. It is a clear example of government at its best which translates into "its not my money and there's plenty where that came from" mentality. I agree with Bill. We've got leadership and an administration at both the state and federal levels that wants government to expand (more jobs for unions) since they are beholding to unions. Follow the money - that is how they got into office. Keep up the good work California you're broke anyway!

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Posted by Citizen Paine
a resident of Danville
on Jul 24, 2012 at 9:33 am

Who cares? Anyone interested in understanding and Then deciding what ought to be done, rather than just free-range ranting.

/filed under knee-jerks.

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Posted by Sue
a resident of Danville
on Jul 24, 2012 at 10:42 am

If the $54M were "sitting there" in pennies, someone would have noticed it a lot sooner. More than the top two heads shoould roll. Wonder what those private donors are thinking, who contributed to keep the parks open?

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Posted by Sam
a resident of Danville
on Jul 24, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Yes, like flies, the anti-government "knee-jerkers" are drawn to any whiff of government misfeasance -- looking to generalize about not just the performance of government agencies, but the role of government (and sometimes even the very existence of government).

Of course, the business world is immune from such errors. Companies never have to re-state their financial reports. And no business leaders are ever fired for lying, stealing, or cheating.

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Posted by A different Bill
a resident of Danville
on Jul 25, 2012 at 6:34 am

Sam nailed it with his sarcasm "Of course, the business world is immune from such errors. Companies never have to re-state their financial reports. And no business leaders are ever fired for lying, stealing, or cheating."

We know he means that the business world is NOT immune, companies DO restate their earnings, and leaders ARE fired or demoted when it happens. This is not the case with government. So what is he trying to say?

Logic is so hard.

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Posted by Time for a REVOLUTION! Citizens Unite!
a resident of Danville
on Jul 26, 2012 at 8:45 am

That's it! I've had it! I want my money back! It's time for a revolution! The government has NEVER helped me! I pay over 50% of my income in federal taxes - not including property, sales, cell phone, cable, death, and California income taxes, to name a few. I have NEVER taken a government hand out! I have NEVER asked for anything in return, but that's it! I don't want to pay for any more of this stupid shit! The tyranny of the many does NOT overrule my individual rights as a U.S. citizen. You can't have any more of MY money! I EARNED it! I worked for it! This isn't fair! I want my money back!

I know I can do a better job! I'm smarter than the government! I am an individual. My name is Trish Hamilton. I am a network engineer, an entrepreneur, a teacher, a chef, a realtor, a gardener, etc. I have a lot of education and skills that I earned. I taught myself! I work hard. I have SACRIFICED to get what I have. You can't have it anymore! Stop taking MY stuff! It's MINE.

I want to own my own education and that of my children. I want to own my own health care and that of my children. I want to keep 100% of MY money, but would be willing to pay 10% for military and roads. The government didn't educate me! The government doesn't protect me! The government doesn't protect you! I protect me! I protect my children! I do it!

As a matter of fact, the government and politicians have been systematically taking away MY RIGHTS for over 100 years. The 16th Amendment allows for upwards of 100% taxation by the government. That's UNCONSTITUTIONAL! The social programs and departments that the government has created are UNCONSTITUTIONAL. Every individual has a right to make their OWN money and make their OWN decisions as long as it doesn't hurt or infringe on anyone else's rights. Stop punishing me for the mistakes of others. Just 6 months ago, the government passed the NDAA bill to take away your due process rights as guaranteed to every U.S. Citizen by the Constitution. They have taken away the 10th Amendment of states rights. They have taken away our 4th Amendment rights to privacy (in the name of terrorism). Now, the government idiots want to take away my 2nd Amendment rights. If I don't get to keep my firearms then what's to stop the government from becoming like Syria?! We are well on our way! It's time to stop the insanity. Wake up, America!

We are all individuals. We are not the government. Government workers should stop stealing from others! Get a real job! Find a skill! Make some money! Find out who you are as an individual and be proud! You can develop skills! You can do it! Just imagine if you got to keep the money you made! It's yours! You EARNED it! You did it! The government only makes stupid arbitrary rules, steals our money, and then puts you in jail for whatever they want to. The cops don't know all the laws - they just enforce those they want to. Nobody knows all the laws! Nobody! How can you live in a society when you don't know the rules?! Punishments?!

I want ALL of my rights back as guaranteed to me by the U.S. Constitution. For over 100 years, the government has been growing and taking MY stuff and MY money. This is ridiculous! I don't want to pay for Desmond Hatchett and his 30 kids. I don't want to pay for John Edwards and his affairs and illegitimate kid. I don't want to pay for the mistakes of the many. I don't want to pay for the war in Iraq. Bring our troops home! Protect U.S. citizens. If the government was doing their job, then we NEVER would have had 9/11. Never! The only job of the government is to protect the very citizens that fund it! Wake up, America! Your rights are worth fighting for. I'm not going to allow this to continue anymore. I have very young children and this is not DEMOCRACY! The majority CANNOT overrule my individual civil liberties. I want my freedom back! I want fireworks on the 4th of July! I want to be proud to be an American again. I want my children to be proud! And if I must, my freedoms (and those of my kids) are worth dying for!

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Posted by Sam
a resident of Danville
on Jul 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Time: La,la, la : "I am a rock...I am an Iiiiiiisland!

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Greenbrook Elementary School

on Jun 2, 2017 at 6:54 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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