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Scandal grows in CA parks system: Director resigns amid discovery of $54 million surplus

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Former State Parks director Ruth Coleman speaks at the grand opening of the Annenberg Community Beach House at Santa Monica State Beach on April 25, 2009. Coleman resigned her post on Friday July 20, 2012.

The Sacramento Bee reports that State Parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned Friday morning after officials learned the department had been holding a nearly $54 million surplus for as long as 12 years. At least one subordinate, her second in command, has been fired.

These departures come amid a recently revealed scandal involving the deputy director at State Parks, Manuel Thomas Lopez, who allegedly carried out an employee vacation buyout program that cost California more than $271,000 at a time when the department, thought to be nearly broke, considered closing dozens of state parks.

The Bee says investigations are underway by the Attorney General's office and the Department of Finance. Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird said his office is also investigating how and why the Parks and Recreation Department stashed so much money for so long.