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CA State Parks Hiding $54 Million – CA State Parks Chief Resigns

CA State Parks Hiding $54 Million – CA State Parks Chief Resigns

California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned last Friday, and her second in command has been fired after officials discovered the department has been sitting on nearly $54 million in surplus money for up to 12 years.

This is both shocking and infuriating. In May, 2011, Coleman announced the closure of 70 of California’s 279 parks due to budget cuts. Immediately, legions of grassroots activists across the state, including Care2 members, sprang into action to find ways to save the parks.

They worked so hard that they were able to rescue all but five of the parks slated for closure.

And now we learn that the State Parks Department was sitting on $54 million? Did Coleman really not know anything about this money?

As The Sacramento Bee explains, the moves come in the wake of a scandal, revealed by The Bee on Sunday, in which a deputy director at State Parks carried out a secret vacation buyout program for employees at department headquarters last year. The buyout cost the state more than $271,000.

When it learned about the buyout, the newspaper began inquiring about rumors of a surplus, and submitted a Public Records Act request for the fund data.

Hooray for The Sacramento Bee and their bold, investigative reporting!

From The Sacramento Bee:

John Laird, secretary of the state Natural Resources Agency, which oversees State Parks, told The Bee that investigations have been launched by both the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Finance to figure out how — and why — the Department of Parks and Recreation squirreled away so much money for so long.

“Ruth has stepped up and taken personal responsibility,” Laird said of Coleman, who is the longest-serving director in the 150-year history of the department. “It’s an incredibly troubling discovery.”

Laird emphasized that it remains unclear who is to blame for the surplus, and whether it is linked to the vacation buyout, which sources told The Bee was carried out by Manuel Thomas Lopez, 45, of Granite Bay, who was demoted in October and then resigned in May.

It turns out that the “extra” money consists of $20.3 million in the Parks and Recreation Fund, and $33.5 million in the Off Highway Vehicle Fund, which are the two primary operating funds at the agency. This money was not reported to the state Finance Department, in contrast to normal budgeting procedures.

While I applaud The Sacramento Bee for digging up this dirt, the news of this hidden $54 million is a slap in the face for all the work that activists have put in to save the parks. If Coleman and her cohorts knew about this money, this likely will damage support and sympathy for state parks from members of the State Legislature and the public.

Why should all those volunteers want to step up any more, if there is really no need for these budget cuts?

What do you think? Did you sign to petition to save California State Parks?

Related Stories

Care2 Success! Most California State Parks Avoid Closure

California Will Close Up To 70 State Parks To Save Money

How To Stave Off California Park Closures

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Photo Credit: m_azen_alasmar

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66 comments

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9:59PM PST on Jan 6, 2013

Hopefully this will stir up a massive investigation of all governmental agencies,,on the local,,state and federal levels,, this is CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR AND DESERVES CRIMINAL PROSECUTION

12:57PM PDT on Oct 8, 2012

wow :/

9:49AM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

TIP OF THE PARKBERG. Where's the $32 TRILLION USD hidden in off-shore private accounts and untold billions of gallons of oil and fuel stored in Texas in reserves?

7:50PM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

Geez!

12:20AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Thank you for the dislosure. I am glad that we did the work that we did, and kept the parks open that we could -- who-ever did this -- thank you.
So, what is the next solution -- use this money to plant organic -non-gmo foods in certain areas of the parks, put in non-smell compostin toilets in the state parks, and how about opening the other parks, and making the some or all of the parks run off solar? THESE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT WOULD BE GOOD. PETITION WRITERS -- MORE PETITIONS PLEASE???
from clueless -- what happens next?

10:11AM PDT on Jul 29, 2012

What ? and my name is Mickey Mouse ??..

10:04AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

keep the money with the parks. obviously, the parks mean a great deal to the people of california. now there is money to hire the staff necessary to maintain and protect the parks. the money is already in the parks fund, keep it there.

10:02AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

the parks money should stay with the parks. i would investigate the possible real estate deals that could have been made by the state park officials if the state parks were actually lost due to mismanagement of funds. many of the state parks would be considered to be prime real estate, therefore, making someone a ton of money who has access to insider information.

the parks money would be able to hire people to work to maintain and protect the parks. obviously, the parks mean a lot to the people of california. keep the money with the parks and use it wisely.

12:49AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

wonder if any other depts are hiding money...

7:04PM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

Yes I remember the closure of parks in May 2011 very clearly. It'll take a lot to convince me that Coleman didn't know about the money. And is the money really 'sitting there'?

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