State parks hoarded $54 million, claimed budget shortfall

July 21, 2012

The director of California’s state parks resigned and a deputy was fired Friday following the discovery the  department had stashed away nearly $54 million in surplus money while parks were threatened with closures because of budget cuts.

While the under-reported cash remained untapped, the California Department of Parks and Recreation claiming dire financial health was soliciting donations slated to help keep some of the to state parks scheduled for closure open, including Morro Strand State Beach campground in San Luis Obispo County.

A preliminary investigation into Parks’ finances has revealed that for at least 12 years the department underreported tens of millions of dollars to the state Department of Finance. As a result, the Department of Finance was not aware that the State Parks and Recreation Fund and the Off Highway Vehicle Fund held $20,378,000 and $33,492,000 respectively above their official, most recently reported balances. The underreporting occurred over the course of two prior gubernatorial administrations.

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. asked the state Attorney General’s Office to investigate the circumstances surrounding the underreporting by the parks system that dates back to at least 2000. Governor Brown has also directed the state Department of Finance to conduct a comprehensive audit of Parks’ fiscal controls and the California Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird to conduct a sweeping review of Parks’ management.

“I welcome Governor Brown’s swift action to address these hidden assets,” Laird said. “We will get to the bottom of this situation and work with the Attorney General, the Legislature and the Department of Finance to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. We will also work with the Legislature to see how this money can be used to mitigate park closures.”

Governor Brown has accepted the resignation of Parks Director Ruth Coleman and Chief Deputy Michael Harris was fired.

Governor Brown appointed California Natural Resources Agency Undersecretary Janelle Beland  as acting interim director of Parks. He has directed her to promptly report to him and Secretary Laird on further actions that should be taken to ensure that the Department is being managed with honesty, accountability and transparency, according to a press release.

In addition to their audit of Parks, the Department of Finance is reviewing all special funds across state government to verify that departments have provided identical fiscal information to Finance and the Controller. The Department of Finance has also put new protocols in place to strengthen how special fund figures are verified and reconciled with data from the Controller and other sources.

The State Parks and Recreation Fund was established in 1979. Its sources of revenue are fees, rentals and returns collected for the use of any state park system area. It can be used for resource management and protection, planning, acquisition and development projects.

The Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund was established in 1971. Its sources of revenues are off-highway vehicle registration fees, transfer fees, penalties, fines and forfeitures. It can only be used for acquisitions, development, construction, maintenance, administration and conservation of areas for the use of off-highway motor vehicles.

The hidden assets were brought to light when new Parks fiscal staff began an internal review of accounts, following a separate investigation by the Attorney General over unauthorized vacation buy-outs.

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I knew this park system was flush with cash. Almost every campsite in the state is sold out during the summer weekends. Most are sold out during the week. I don’t point the finger at Jerry Brown stain for this but he sure used the parks as a tool to claim the sky would fall if we didn’t cave in to his plea for more taxes. Where else are piles of mulla that someone isn’t disclosing? Oh that’s right, education funding. They seem to never follow through with these massive layoffs they keep talking about. Highest paid teachers in the country, lowest student performance in the country. Quit taking increasing amounts of our income Sacramento – operate our state with the revenue you are receiving. NO NEW TAXES!


On May 28, 2012 a Sentate subcommittee voted to strip money from California’s OHV trust fund program, for 3 years to cover other budget programs. OHV funds are now being used to cover budget shortfalls in other areas, according to Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield). The vote to strip the fund was made in the Senate Budget Subcommittee #2 (Resources, Environmental Protection and Transportation).

I bet they are already salavating over this “under-reported” financial bonaza.

Hey Y’all, look at the bright side: the money is still there. Compare that to the state school systems: They spend all their money to hire more administrators and give the current ones large raises. All the time they whine about not having enough money.

The system needs to change. I’ll vote to give them more money right after they remove a significant amount of administrative bloat. Mark my words, if the tax measures do not pass, the people doing the teaching will be fired, not the people counting the beans.

” The hidden assets were brought to light when new Parks fiscal staff began an internal review of accounts, ”

They weren’t hidden from those paying the money. We “green sticker” payers knew about it all along. We knew we weren’t benefiting one iota from the money the State has been extorting from us since 1971.

The lesson to us all:

This is evidence of the power of internal audits by new eyes…certainly on ALL levels of government, but certainly in your own back yard. Review your city’s budgets. Due your diligence. Ask painful questions, Demand answers. Get involved. Embrace your ability to stop the shennanigans. It really is up to each one of us; individually AND collectively.

As a conservative that is a lot of times in favor of no taxes and then beat upon by liberal types that we need, we need, here is a MAJOR REASON why I DO NOT TRUST GOV. in their insisitance of always wanting and needing more money.

I have always said live in a budget like me and many families do. So with Jerry Brown’s 1/2 cent tax on the ballot around the corner anyone still waiting to vote for? Any liberals that have voted for the continuing of the Gov. largees are just as much to blame for the above as the people involved. STOP GIVING THE GOV. YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY!!!!!!

Yea and Paso wants more money for streets come Nov. Any takers on where that money will go a few years from now if approved? At least locally we have CCN to help in keeping them in the light of the public.

Another fine example of financial prudence. Lets let the parks close – because we don’t have enough money squirrled away in secret places. $54 million, no less. Goes along with the 10% raises given to many of the ‘top’ state employees – and this state is supposedly broke.

What more will it take? How many other millions are also ‘hidden’ away? This madness must stop.

VOTE NO on any and all tax increases. This state has to live within its means, just as the vast majority of its citizens.

I take exception to the comment by MaryMalone, indicating that apathetic voters is a great wake-up call to our elected politicians. If we don’t choose to exercise our right to vote, then the politicians will know we are onto their game and we refuse to participate in that game. Really? We should not vote

because we don’t like the way things are being done? How many politicians do you think give a hoot if they win with 5% or 50% of the voters? NONE. If we do not vote, then we have given up our one, most basic right. To a large extent, apathetic voters are a large reason why this state, this county, and this country is in the condition that they are? Voters do not care to study the issues, the candidates and make a learned decision – they instead go along with promises, news bites, commentators, pamplets, etc. WAKE UP and do some homework – then be sure to VOTE. Vote NO on all taxes; state, county, and city.

I wonder how much hidden funds $$$$ are in The director of California’s state parks Cayman Islands funds…

‘addendum’ Cayman Island accounts

For 12 yrs, this one state agency hid away 54 million bucks. How many OTHER state agencies are doing the same thing. There’s just no way I’ll vote for ANY new taxes. We’re being robbed as it is.

As a government employee I totally agree with Tacomarose. Anyone who thinks this state has a revenue problem and not a spending problem is clueless. I want to encourage everyone to vote no on any tax increases. The city of San Luis was exposed for hiding approximately 63 million and they will want to keep the sales tax increase that people voted for. Vote No on all tax increases,demand accountability from all government entities. Vote for freedom not freebies.