January 18, 2013 | Back to: Columns

Two local parks not out of the woods

The California Parks Department had a difficult 2012.

After unveiling its wildly unpopular plan to close 70 parks, including two parks in Nevada County, the parks department witnessed Director Ruth Coleman resign amid allegations the department willfully hid $54 million for the state finance department for more than a decade.

A subsequent investigation conducted by the California Attorney General revealed $34 million of the sum was located in an OHV fund and that the failure to disclose these funds were due to mistakes in methodology of reporting as opposed to an intentional cover-up.

However, $20 million found hidden in the State Parks and Recreation Fund was not reported from a period dating from 2003 until July 2012, when Coleman resigned, according to a report authored by Thomas Patton, California Deputy Attorney General.

The under reporting likely started out as a mistake, but “by no later than 2003, and perhaps as early as 1999, the failure to accurately report all (recreation fund) monies to the Department of Finance became conscious and deliberate,” Pattton wrote. “The primary reason consistently given for not doing so was fear that the (parks department) would see its already-reduced general funding cut further if the extra monies in the (recreation fund) were revealed.”

Coleman, who joined the parks department as director in 2002, denied knowledge of the hidden funds and Patton concludes that reports she knew are unreliable.

Tom Domich was informed of the balance of the funds by no later than 2003, and along with former Accounting Officer Freda Luan-Dun and then-Budget Officer Becky Brown had conversations about the issue.

Former Chief Deputy Michael Harris said

Matthew Renda
mrenda@theunion.com

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The Union Updated Aug 22, 2013 04:23PM Published Jan 18, 2013 09:45AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.