No Charges Stemming From Calif. Park Scandal
The Sacramento County district attorney said Thursday (Jan. 24) that her office will not pursue criminal charges against California state parks officials in the “hidden funds” scandal because of a “failure to identify any crime” by the state attorney general.
District Attorney Jan Scully responded after the attorney general turned over its investigation into the matter, anticipating the district attorney would decide whether crimes were committed, The Sacramento Bee reported.
The investigation concluded that numerous high-ranking employees at the California Department of Parks and Recreation kept at least $20 million hidden in a “rainy day fund” for as long as 13 years, a violation of state budget rules. This continued even as the department moved in 2012 to close 70 state parks in response to general fund budget cuts.
“There is no indication who your office considers to be suspects, and if so, what crime they may have committed,” Attorney General Jan Scully wrote in the letter. “It is thus unclear why the matter has been referred to our office at all, and whether your office intends to retain its historic authority in the prosecution … of such cases.”
Officials at the attorney general’s office previously emphasized they were asked by Gov. Jerry Brown to conduct only an “administrative” investigation. Thus, most of its interviews with current and former parks employees were done without the legal admonishments required for a criminal proceeding.
Yet officials at the Natural Resources Agency, which oversees state parks, anticipated the investigation would allow the district attorney to decide whether crimes were committed. It now appears unclear whether the question of criminal behavior will ever be settled.
“I just hoped, after all this has transpired, that everything would be forthcoming and everything would be dealt with in the best way possible,” said Lynn Rhodes, a retired chief of enforcement at state parks who has been critical of previous management at the department. “I’m not sure whose place it would be to ask the attorney general to clarify its report.”