Hearst Castle waives fees for politically connected

October 22, 2012

While many  California state parks battled to escape closure because of budget cuts, the crown jewel of the park system – Hearst Castle in San Luis Obispo County– waived $611,000 in private event fees over the last decade for the politically connected, select individuals and certain organizations. [CaliforniaWatch]

Since 2002, Hearst Castle has been the venue of choice for 125 events ranging from weddings to fundraisers, birthday bashes to cocktail parties.

Nick Franco, superintendent for the state Department of Parks and Recreation’s San Luis Obispo Coast District waived $124,450 for the birthday party of former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and a charity race led by Maria Shriver while she was California’s first lady.

Two Central Coast parks – Limekiln State Park and Morro Strand State Beach – were set to close in July as the result of budget cuts, but both received reprieves through last-minute funding from a private parks management company and the district. A recent investigation revealed that the state parks department was not suffering as much as it claimed – it had been sitting on a $54 million surplus for years.

The rate for a three-hour event at Hearst Castle is $11,100, but that nearly doubles to $22,100 if more than 50 people are expected to attend. The ultimate decision of whether to charge the event fees is left up Franco, the district superintendent.

“There’s obviously politics that come into play with big events like that,” Franco told California Watch. “It plays into it when the first lady is one of the sponsors of the event.”

 


17 Comments

  1. R.Hodin says:

    I believe this story has legs. Read the article by California Watch for much more depth: http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/hearst-castle-waived-event-fees-nearby-parks-struggled-17568

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. themarygardener2012 says:

    Hey Nick Franco, you make me want to barf with your “ah f8ckets” when it comes to politicians! Go screw yourself and the politicians ..maybe you won’t have a job if they close YOUR PARK…JERK!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. slojustice says:

    I find it really frightening that our elected officials and our government management employees, do not see themselves as public servants anymore. They have morphed into the “government elite”. And here they expect us to vote them a huge tax increase to make their lives easier. I say screw you, start doing your job. The founding fathers are all rolling in their graves

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • The Gimlet Eye says:

      Well said, slojustice. Of course they don’t see themselves as “public servants” anymore.

      That’s why you must never let them forget it by reminding them constinuously, using the words over and over and over to them.

      We must dictate to them what we expect of them, what we want them to do, how we want them to do it, when we want them to do it, why we want them to do it, where we want them to do it, how, etc., etc.

      Flood their offices and e-mails with opinions, assessments, evaluations, grades. Include information that the same information is going out to the news media like CCN.

      Jump all over them whenever you feel that they are not doing things right.

      Or else they are going to have a very short tenure in office.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. Cicero says:

    For readers logging into CalCoastNews from out of state, let me help translate.

    In California we spell corruption this way: c o l l a b o r a t i o n.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. justme says:

    What was that phone call like? Hey Nick?…..Yes?,,,,, Nick, this is Jack O’connel and I’ve got a B-day comin up…….
    So Nick is gonna tell him no,as a lowly State worker bee?
    It’s O’connel’s crime here, so bill him and if he doesn’t pay up, Boom, no car tags,dr. lic. or tax refund.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

    • danika says:

      I wonder if Jack O’Connell had to show the value of this write of on his Federal taxes as it is a form of remuneration. Nick waived the fee for something Jack did or was going to do. That’s bartering and, I believ, taxable.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  6. The Gimlet Eye says:

    government=ripofff

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  7. Blnde1 says:

    It shouldn’t matter– there needs to be a level of consistency when it comes to financial standards in this state. Being the “first lady” of California at that time– she of all people should have known the financial state of affairs that our parks (as well as other departments) were in serious condition. When does accountability come into play?? Is this “Dictator” — I mean Director going to have any type of adverse action taken against him? Or is this going to be another case of “The California Double Standard”?!?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

    • r0y says:

      What if she (or any state official) wanted to hold a special fund raiser to raise money for the park system? Or any other State system that is lacking funds (education, roads, anything but salaries and benefits, etc)?

      I would have no problem with the State using State property to offset some costs to the taxpayers via fund raising. I would be very cautious about it becoming a political event, however.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

  8. Jorge Estrada says:

    I can remember boating around Santa Margarita Lake and reading “No Trespassing, U.S. Property”
    Who is the U.S. or who is the State? ALL of US! That means if some can, all can and no tax dollars should ever fund a special event without we the public voting for it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2

    • r0y says:

      While that sounds nice, I hardly wish to vote on every decision the state is making. At some point we must rely on our Representative Republic to be just that. Pure Democracy has never and will never work (which is what I thought you were inferring in your comment about public voting for special events use).

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

  9. r0y says:

    For certain events, such as a state-level charity to help with state funds (non-political campaign stuff), I don’t see a problem. It’s the State’s property, so if they want to hold a “fund the homeless shelter” (or whatever) event there, so be it.

    However, birthdays and political fund raising events would obviously be a no-no.

    If it can be used to save the State money (since it’s their own property), then it is fine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

    • Cindy says:

      I agree on the state funded charity events but the political shenanigans is another story. Somebody is ripping off us taxpayers while promoting their own politics. The link to California Watch elucidates quite a bit more.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

      • SLOBIRD says:

        I disagree with anyone getting a free ride. This jewel belongs to the people. Anyone for any event should have to pay because no State official is smart enough to make an honest decision. Everytime these is a special event at The Castle is costs the taxpayers overtime pay, utilities, transportation up and down the hill, etc. No way, everyone should pay at least for the costs incurred.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

        • r0y says:

          True, but in the big picture, should the state pay the state? It’s simple business: use available state resources to avoid purchase/lease/rental of non-state resources.

          The question becomes: what is the use? Is it purely a state thing, and not a “personal” thing from some politician?

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

          • SLOBIRD says:

            Tell that to one State Agency that wants to impose another with a fine. Oceano, Los Osos just happen to pop into my mind. No, everyone pay and trust, they don’t need to use The Castle to raise money for the Parks unless it is for the elite. Go to Pismo, on the beach, and raise the money. Get close to the people and maybe some of us could afford it, oh wait, the seifs shouldn’t be invited, I forgot!

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

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