New Probe Ordered for Calif. Parks Scandal
California lawmakers ordered an accelerated audit of the embattled parks department on Wednesday (Aug. 9), adding to a growing list of probes examining state finances in the wake of an accounting scandal.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the review, to be conducted by the state auditor, will examine a hidden $54-million surplus discovered in parks accounts last month and an unauthorized program allowing employees to trade in unused vacation time for more than $271,000 in cash.
“It’s a victory for transparency in state government,” said Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who had pushed for the audit.
The parks money, which had been stashed away for at least a dozen years, was found as the state was soliciting donations to keep as many as 70 parks open amid a budget crisis. Some local governments that forked over money to keep parks open have demanded it back, and lawmakers are concerned that the accounting scandal will create a rift between the state and a community of parks supporters.
“This is a disaster for our efforts to build partnerships and create strategies to support our state parks,” said Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. “There’s only one way to fix it, and that is to act as quickly as possible to restore public trust and confidence.”