Lawmakers demand guarantee of 'no more hidden pots of money' in special funds

Former State Parks director Ruth Coleman speaks in 2009. Coleman resigned last month when the Parks Department was found to have hoarded over $54 million in special funds.
Former State Parks director Ruth Coleman speaks in 2009. Coleman resigned last month when the Parks Department was found to have hoarded over $54 million in special funds. Angela Weiss/Getty Images

At a hearing in Sacramento on Thursday, state lawmakers demanded a “guarantee” that the money in California’s special funds has been accounted for.

Last month it was discovered that the state's Parks and Recreation Department had a special fund with $54 million hidden away — at the same time it was asking for donations to keep parks open.

California has more than 500 special funds that support about a quarter of state spending, from financial assistance for victims of crime to managing bottle recycling. The revelation that Parks and Recreation administrators hid millions in assets for more than a decade disturbed lawmakers who’ve faced tough budget cuts on all fronts.

Assembly Budget Chair Bob Blumenfield told the Head of Finance, the Controller and the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office that they "need to know that there aren’t other pots of money lying around.”

Finance officials reiterated the findings of an audit they completed last week, saying that the Parks Department's deception is an isolated event and they’re working to increase oversight of special funds going forward.

Assemblyman Blumenfield says the legislature is also committed to keeping close tabs on those accounts.

“I need to look people in the eye and say with confidence that we’ve done all that we can do," says Blumenfield, adding that the legislature is committed to keeping close tabs on all accounts.

On Wednesday, lawmakers ordered the state auditor to conduct an independent review of the Parks budget. The Brown Administration and California’s Attorney General are each conducting in-depth audits of the agency as well.

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