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Report: California Parks Violated Payroll Rules

Dozens of employees at California’s Department of Parks and Recreation were inappropriately paid for working outside their job classification, according to an audit by the State Controller’s Office released Tuesday.

The Sacramento Bee reported these “out-of-class” work assignments may have cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars beyond the misuse of funds at the department that has been previously reported.

The audit was triggered by a Sacramento Bee investigation, published in July, that revealed a secret vacation buyout program offered to employees at parks headquarters in Sacramento. This program cost taxpayers more than $271,000, which would have been sufficient to save a half-dozen parks from closure as a result of state budget cuts.

The Controller’s Office opted not to probe the vacation buyout further, saying prior investigations by internal auditors and the Attorney General’s Office had been adequate. However, it did find that an additional three people received vacation buyout payments, for a total of 59. The amount of money paid to these additional three employees is not revealed.

The audit focuses primarily on other revelations involving parks employees allowed to work in positions above their usual pay grade, often done to temporarily fill a staff vacancy.

Auditors found 203 employees over a three-year period were assigned to these “out-of-class” assignments at state parks. It remains unclear whether all of these were improper, because the department did not follow required record-keeping procedures before approving the assignments.

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