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Controller finds more problems in California parks department

SACRAMENTO — More than 200 state employees were overpaid more than $500,000 by managers who deliberately broke state rules at the troubled California Department of Parks and Recreation, according to a report Tuesday by the state controller.

The report is the latest blow to a department where employees were found last summer to have kept $54 million hidden in two special funds for more than a decade, even as dozens of parks faced closure. Results from additional investigations by the Department of Finance and state attorney general are expected in coming weeks.

The controller's office found that managers broke rules and regulations to pay 203 employees about $520,000 in extra pay over three years. Several dozen other employees were also overpaid more than $63,000 because they worked more hours or in higher-paying positions than allowed.

"The deliberate disregard for internal controls along with little oversight and poorly trained staff resulted in improper payouts to Parks' employees," Controller John Chiang said in a statement. He called for tighter security and authorization requirements to correct a lax standard that "invites the abuse of public funds."

Department spokesman Roy Stearns said the department agrees with the criticism and is taking steps to comply.


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