California Parks System Hid $54 Million Surplus, Even in Face of Possible Closures


They certainly weren't blowing the money on fancy logos.

Your Sacramento scandal du jour: California's State Parks Deparment has millions of dollars in surplus that they did not report to the state, even as budget cuts threatened park closures. Via The Sacramento Bee:

State Parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned this morning and her second in command has been fired after officials learned the department has been sitting on nearly $54 million in surplus money for as long as 12 years.

The moves come in the wake of a scandal, revealed by The Bee on Sunday, in which a deputy director at State Parks carried out a secret vacation buyout program for employees at department headquarters last year. That buyout cost the state more than $271,000. …

The surplus money consists of $20.3 million in the Parks and Recreation Fund, and $33.5 million in the Off Highway Vehicle Fund, which are the two primary operating funds at the agency. This money was not reported to either Finance or the State Controller's Office, in contrast to normal budgeting procedures.

The department sat on the money for unknown reasons even as it carried out, over the past year, the unprecedented closure of 70 parks to satisfy state budget cuts.

Most of those closures did not occur because nonprofits and local governments found money to take over the parks. The money could also have prevented drastic cutbacks in hours, staffing and services that have stricken nearly every park in the state over the past two years.

Hat tip to the Twitter feed at FlashReport.Org, which just added "Ha, a legislator just said to me, 'Look on the bright side, finding $54m in hoarded money is better than finding $54m in unpaid bills.'"