Calif. State Park Trio Faces Disciplinary Action
Three executives at the California Department of Parks and Recreation have been served with formal disciplinary notices for their role in an illegal vacation buyout program that occurred at department headquarters last year, The Sacramento Bee reported.
David Saxby, the assistant deputy director for administrative services, is the highest-ranking of the three. His punishment was a formal “reprimand” on Aug. 6, according to the notice filed with the State Personnel Board.
Jason Summers, the department’s personnel director, was relieved of that title and demoted on Aug. 3, according to the notice filed against him. And Paris Jackson, the assistant personnel officer, had her salary cut by 5 percent for one year starting Aug. 3, but kept her position.
Saxby declined to comment when contacted by The Bee on Monday (Aug. 13). Phone messages left for Summers and Jackson on Monday were not immediately returned.
Although the employees were disciplined, all three remain on the job at state parks.
Saxby, however, plans to retire on Aug. 31, according to an e-mail he sent to employees and coworkers on June 21, a copy of which was obtained by The Bee. His email makes no mention of the vacation scandal. It was sent long after investigations of the buyout had been completed, but before it became public.
The disciplinary actions, formally known as a “notice of adverse action”, are filed with the State Personnel Board when a state agency moves to demote or discipline an employee. Each employee has 30 days from the effective date of the action to appeal it.
The notices reinforce that Manuel Lopez, the former deputy director of administrative services at state parks, initiated the vacation buyout, which occurred mostly in May and June of 2011.
In the buyout, 56 employees at state parks headquarters in Sacramento — including Lopez and Jackson — were allowed to sell unused vacation time back to the state. The buyouts cost the state more than $271,000. This was done without approval of the state Department of Human Resources, the only state agency empowered by state law to authorize such buyouts.
In an earlier interview with The Bee, Lopez acknowledged responsibility for the buyout. No formal disciplinary action has been filed against him. Officials at the state Natural Resources Agency, which oversees state parks, have said Lopez was demoted in October for his role in the buyout, and then resigned in May.
The disciplinary notices reinforce that other managers at state parks were complicit in carrying out the program. The notices against Saxby, Summers and Jackson cite each for “inexcusable neglect of duty,” “misuse of state property” and “failure of good behavior” for their roles in the buyout.
According to the notices, all three participated in meetings with Lopez to organize the buyout and had a significant role in carrying it out. In addition, all three should have known, as part of their formal job responsibilities, that a vacation buyout could not occur without authorization from Cal HR, and they should have at least notified upper management or the department’s legal counsel before carrying it out.