State parks director: negligent or incompetent?

State parks director: negligent or incompetent?

July 20, 2012

Katy Grimes: The California State Parks agency has been sullied by a growing scandal.

Three days ago I wrote about the illegal vacation buyout scandal in the State Parks and Recreation agency in “Scandalous state parks department needs privatization.” I questioned who it was that authorized the checks that were paid to the parks employees, and said that everyone involved should be brought up on charges.

Today, Parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned, and her second in command was fired.

That’s a good start. But according to my sources at the state, Coleman is getting off easy. My sources said that this was a highly orchestrated resignation, and appointment of an interim parks director. It’s carefully orchestrated damage control, along with very little hard-hitting journalism over a scandal.

Janelle Beland, former senior advisor and caucus director for Sen. Pres Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, has been named Interim Director.

My sources work for the state. Apparently because the parks department was conducting its own bogus internal audit of the vacation buyout scandal, no one at the Parks Department would officially confirm the allegations when I inquired.

Now that the story has broken wide open, more information is coming out from sources all over the state. But my sources, who wish to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation, have clammed-up since the story broke fearing whistleblower retribution.

But they still want to make sure that the goings-on within the Parks Department is not sugar-coated, or covered-up.

Issues and Allegations

My sources say that most of the parks employees in the headquarter administrative office in Sacramento knew what was going on. They say that director Coleman not only knew about the vacation buyout scandal, but that she sat in on the meetings as the scheme was hatched by senior parks employee, Manuel Thomas Lopez, who was demoted in October, and resigned in the Spring.

But my sources say Lopez was not alone. He couldn’t have been operating solo in a vacation buyout scandal. As I wrote earlier this week, someone had to authorize and approve the buyout requests in order for employees to receive the money from the state.

According to my sources, an Assistant Personnel Officer for the State Parks Department was responsible for keying in the post-it notes amounts, which were used for the buyout requests to avoid a paper trail.

My sources say that the Personnel officer is now in training to be a peace officer for the department, as a sort of payoff for helping with the scandal. And, that the usual peace officer criteria was waived for this Personnel Officer to change jobs. Adding to this job change, sources say that her husband is allegedly a convicted felon.

Other highly questionable activities allegedly took place within the Parks department as well, according to my sources. In addition to the information that the Parks agency has been sitting on nearly $54 million in surplus money for as long as 12 years, it is widely rumored that Coleman knew about the surplus and approved it, despite the reports where blamed she mid-level managers for the cover-up.

Additionally, they say that the state Parks department intentionally understates and under-projects its annual budget to be able to hide money, despite what the agency receives from the state. And remember that the Parks Department handles a great deal of cash. Sources say that the cash income is also under reported.

During a recent taping of Politics on Tap in which I was a guest panelist, with host Greg Lucas, Coleman talked about the success she was having raising money from private sector donors to keep the state parks open. “We’ve spent the last year-and-a-half working on partnerships,”  Coleman said.

But, Coleman stressed on the show that although almost all of the parks on the original closure list would stay open as of July 1, the donations and financial partnerships, and help in the recently approved state budget doesn’t mean that the crisis is over. “I wouldn’t say they’re safe, I think ‘reprieve’ is a better word,” Coleman said, knowing that there was a $54 million surplus in two accounts, as reported in news stories today.

Gov. Jerry Brown has been threatening to close 70 state parks, claiming that looming budget cuts and the inherent budget deficit were to blame. This is the same tactic the government has been using under Democratic control, to try and squeeze tax increases out of taxpayers. They threaten to cut police, fire fighters, let parks disintegrate, cut back garbage services, and cut teachers, in order for voters to finally become convinced that there is a budget crisis, and vote to pass a tax increase.

It’s a tired, old, worn out lie. Fortunately, California voters have not bought into the lie, and have killed the last eight attempts to raise taxes in ballot initiatives.

During the taping of Politics on Tap, Coleman even expressed dismay that voters killed the $18 DMV tax ballot initiative, which would have gone to helping fund state parks.

Allegations and Issues

These issues taken individually is cause enough for an in-depth investigation, preferably by an outside agency. Taken together, one can assume that as the layers are peeled back, there will be more issues, allegations, illegal and scandalous behavior uncovered.

The buck always stops with the agency head, but it appears that it didn’t with Coleman in charge. Coleman’s resignation is a face-saving gesture, and will ensure that she receives her state benefits and pension, and possibly, find a soft landing in another agency. However, given the criminal financial allegations involved with her agency, under her leadership of one decade, it is debatable whether or not she is entitled to state benefits or state employment any longer.

She either knew about the schemes and scandalous behavior, or she was oblivious to it, making her negligent, and incompetent, or complicit.

Investigate this

Earlier this week, Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, called for an Parks Department investigation, and has now sent a letter to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee calling for a further review of the State Parks Department.

“It is clear that our office has only touched the tip of the iceberg on the culture of corruption within state government,” Gaines said.  “Where was the Department of Finance and the Controller’s Office in reviewing these obvious accounting gimmicks?”

 

20 comments

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  1. larry 62
    larry 62 20 July, 2012, 18:17

    Keep the pressure on Katy, and keep exposing this kind of corruption and just maybe there is hope for this state. We can only wonder how much of this stuff is going on in government at all levels. And JB thinks we will vote for tax increases. I think not.

    Reply this comment
  2. Rex The Wonder Dog!
    Rex The Wonder Dog! 20 July, 2012, 20:31

    Why isnt Ruth in Jail?????????????????//

    Reply this comment
  3. Bob Smith
    Bob Smith 21 July, 2012, 00:01

    Turn parks management over to Coyote!

    Reply this comment
  4. Donkey
    Donkey 21 July, 2012, 07:11

    Katy Wrote: “My sources say that the Personnel officer is now in training to be a peace officer for the department, as a sort of payoff for helping with the scandal. And, that the usual peace officer criteria was waived for this Personnel Officer to change jobs. Adding to this job change, sources say that her husband is allegedly a convicted felon.”

    I find this charade of the selfless “public servant” sickening. The people within the RAGWUS bureaucracies have been running under their own “normality” for the last 30 years, with no entity demanding honesty, integrity, or truth from these cretins.

    And of course the person Katy is writing about is to move on and become a “peace officer,” just reward, having the ability to move frome one den of thieves to the biggest den of thieves and liars within the RAGWUS cabal. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  5. Donkey
    Donkey 21 July, 2012, 07:27

    Katy, the fact that a person may be a “convicted felon” has lost its malevolent essence of days past. The PIC has made “felons” of many of our citizens with its use of terror and plea bargain , and then calling it a conviction. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  6. Gregg Fresonke
    Gregg Fresonke 21 July, 2012, 10:41

    Katy, your investigative reporting is detailed, informative, and a welcome take on events not being reported by the mainstream media.

    It is time for self-serving government bureaucrats to start serving time when they fail in their fudiciary duties.

    Reply this comment
  7. Chino Hills Resident
    Chino Hills Resident 21 July, 2012, 12:37

    I now know why Ruth and the rest of her crew never could come to Chino Hills and tour the destruction SCE erected in our city. The Monster Power poles we kept inviting (begging) them to come see. She ruled against our City to put these 198ft monster power poles through the heart of our city instead of going through Chino Hills State Park (where there are already power poles). She ignored our 1000’s of emails and faxes of pictures of these power poles looming over our homes (where babies live and young children are maturing into adulthood potentially living under electrical wiring of 500,000 volts) too busy with this corruption instead. Now we the people that are honest are left as usual with the filthy residue by people that are corrupt. Who IS looking after the people in Chino Hills? Now our option is maybe underground and we have to pray the one company selected BY SCE to come up with our fate (undergrounding which was not our first choice) are not corrupt. Would you be worried?

    Reply this comment
  8. Queeg
    Queeg 21 July, 2012, 14:14

    Anything going on since I was away?

    Missed Teddy’s enlightening/ pragmatic posts.

    Reply this comment
  9. Rex The Wonder Dog!
    Rex The Wonder Dog! 21 July, 2012, 14:35

    Teddys Sock Puppet has appeared 😉

    Reply this comment
  10. Joanne Genis
    Joanne Genis 21 July, 2012, 20:16

    How can you not know that you have $54 million stashed? She couldn’t have been that concerned about the parks closing, because if she was, then you would have thought she would have been digging and searching through all the books, looking for every possible penny, to keep the park opens. And then acting like she wasn’t aware of the vacation buy-outs? Was she the “Director” or the “Deceiver” of the State Parks? Now she gets to walk away with state benefits and a pension? All this is shameful and so wrong. Thanks Katy for the article. I’m sure this is not the end of this saga and will be reading a follow-up story soon.

    Reply this comment
  11. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 23 July, 2012, 00:08

    “Anything going on since I was away?” Nothing you would understand Queeg. By the way when you speak I can see Teddy’s lips moving.

    Reply this comment
  12. Queeg
    Queeg 23 July, 2012, 09:20

    Sense some tension here. Teddy is a reasonable poster. Why could have done? Told the truth…..

    Reply this comment
  13. Rex The Wonder Dog!
    Rex The Wonder Dog! 23 July, 2012, 10:32

    if she is negligent it is criminal negligence……

    Reply this comment
  14. Rex The Wonder Dog!
    Rex The Wonder Dog! 23 July, 2012, 10:34

    “Anything going on since I was away?” Nothing you would understand Queeg. By the way when you speak I can see Teddy’s lips moving.

    LOL…Teddy doesn’t even try to pretend that Queeg is not his sock puppet anymore!!!!!

    Reply this comment
  15. little dickens
    little dickens 24 July, 2012, 11:39

    State Parks used to promote to director from withing State Parks. The Parks “family” actually really cared about eachother and thier mission but since term limits was passed Directorships of almost all Agencies and Departments goes to termed out political hacks. Colmans husbancd (different last name) used be the head of CalEPA but when Governorship changed he was replaced. It is all an in-breeding kind of thing with the politicans moving from post to post. everyone complains about the state retirement on “highest year salary’ but that was once highest of your last three years. Enter term limits and with politicians moving from place to place they needed to protect thier HIGHEST paid position for retirement base. State legislators did not used to be part of CalPers either but i once read where they passed a loaw that allowed them to become part of CalPers -since it was ocne doing so well- and THAT is also whent he one year vs three years came to pass = term limits too. Trace so much of this back to the politicians and take it a little easy on the grunts of state service; not all are lazy. Also the AVERAGE retirement for state wervice is $28,000 – $36,000 per year. Not bad but certainly NOT what is always talked about in the Bee.

    Reply this comment
  16. Nick Carter
    Nick Carter 3 April, 2017, 12:02

    Well done Kathy. It appears to me; a South African reader that every US Democrat constituency has incompetent officials with fingers in the till or at least an irregular agenda. Why is it that the incompetent always seem to make it to top state jobs? Isn’t there a vetting process when recruiting?

    Is there there any way Californians would consider bringing retired police and military personnel to police the park? A good conservation strategist could write the battle plan and enforcement could be up to these men and women – many would do this for free. I do it just to keep fit. A ten mile foot patrol per day, the’s way to do it.

    I know a dozen vets that are nuts about the environment, who would leap at the opportunity to serve wildlife. Most of we late fifties to sixty-plus year old will out-run and out-march the average American couch potato by about twenty miles per day – at a slowwwww march.

    Reply this comment
  17. Nick Carter
    Nick Carter 3 April, 2017, 12:09

    Well done Kathy. It appears to me; a South African reader that every US Democrat constituency has incompetent officials with fingers in the till or at least an irregular agenda. Why is it that the incompetent always seem to make it to top state jobs? Isn’t there a vetting process when recruiting?

    Is there there any way Californians would consider bringing retired police and military personnel to police the park? A good conservation strategist could write the battle plan and enforcement could be up to these men and women – many would do this for free. I do it just to keep fit. A ten mile foot patrol per day, the’s way to do it.

    I know a dozen vets that are nuts about the environment, who would leap at the opportunity to serve wildlife. Most of we late fifties to sixty-plus year old will out-run and out-march the average American couch potato by about twenty miles per day – at a slowwwww march.

    One last question, Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, could bag $1 billion in commissions for his company from a government plan to sell 56 US Postal Service buildings. How do you Americans allow blatant corruption like this? http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/01/17/sen-feinsteins-husbands-company-to-bag-1-billion-for-government-deal/

    Reply this comment

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