Former California state parks leaders engaged in a “conscious and deliberate” effort to hide millions of dollars for as long as 13 years, according to an investigation by the state attorney general’s office released Friday.
As reported by the Sacramento Bee, the long-awaited probe was ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown after revelations that headquarters officials at the California Department of Parks and Recreation kept a stash of “hidden funds.”
At the time, the total was reported as $54 million, held in two special revenue accounts.
The attorney general’s investigation concludes, however, that only $20.5 million held in the State Parks and Recreation Fund was truly concealed. The remaining $33 million, held in the Off Highway Vehicle Fund, was not intentionally hidden but simply obscured by long-term complexities in managing that fund.
The $20.5 million piled up because the department had a practice of reporting one fund total to the state Controller’s Office and a smaller amount to the Department of Finance, the agency with final authority for compiling the overall state budget. This violated state budgeting rules.
The accumulation of money, however, was “unintended,” according to the investigation, and did not accrue from any misconduct.
Active efforts to keep the money hidden, however, raise questions about whether any employees committed crimes. The attorney general’s office, known as an aggressive law-enforcement agency in other arenas, did not probe this crucial question.
The investigators also were unable to fully explain how the money piled up, despite interviewing 40 key employees in more than 2,000 pages of testimony.
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