State lawmakers order parks department audit

  • FILE -- In this May 13, 2011 file photo Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks, discusses the possible closure of 70 of California's state parks due to budget cuts, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. A former state parks official said he repeatedly told his superiors about more than $53 million hidden in two accounts that could have been used to help California avoid the threat of closing 70 state parks, a newspaper reported Thursday. Manuel Lopez, former deputy director of administrative services for the Department of Parks and Recreation, said he informed agency Director Ruth Coleman about a $20 million surplus in the Parks and Recreation Fund at least five times over a span of about five years, The Sacramento Bee reported. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

SACRAMENTO — California's state parks department will be subject to an independent audit to examine how and why nearly $54 million in two special funds went unreported even as budget cuts were threatening to close 70 parks.

The revelation of the hidden money earlier this summer threatens Democratic hopes of passing a ballot measure that would increase taxes by undermining the public's trust in how state government handles tax money.

Democrats favor the review in hopes of restoring voters' confidence, while many Republican lawmakers say they would like a broader review to see if state government has other hidden pots of cash.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the audit.

Reports of the underreported $54 million surfaced after The Sacramento Bee reported that some Department of Parks and Recreation administrators had taken unauthorized cash-outs of vacation time worth more than $271,000.

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