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Taxpayer money wasted, misused, California auditor finds

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted or misused by California workers last year, the state auditor alerted Gov. Jerry Brown in a report Tuesday detailing a series of investigations.

As Brown wrestles with a $25-billion budget shortfall, the warning from Auditor Elaine Howle provides him with a hint at the kind of waste and fraud contributing to the state’s red ink.

Howle’s report detailed eight investigations undertaken by her office last year in response to whistleblower complaints.

"Through our investigations, we found patients placed at risk and state funds wasted during the continued employment of an incompetent psychiatrist, misuse of state resources, theft of registration fees, and failure to protect the security of confidential documents," Howle wrote to Brown.

The audit findings included:

-- The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation wasted at least $366,656 in state funds when it took 35 months to investigate an allegation regarding the competency of a psychiatrist. The auditor said that during the investigation, the employee continued to receive his full salary, was granted two merit-based salary increases and continued to accrue 226 hours (equivalent to $29,149) of leave that was paid to him upon his termination.

-- The California Conservation Corps circumvented competitive-bidding requirements when it purchased $64,666 worth of clothing and boots by splitting the purchase into three orders rather than competitively bidding the purchase as required for goods over $25,000.

-- A supervisor at Kern Valley State Prison allowed an employee to take two-hour breaks. As a result, the state paid the employee $23,937 for 1,160 hours during which he was not performing his job duties.

[Updated, 10:22 a.m.:
-- An employee improperly removed confidential documents from her workplace at the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, so the security of personal information of victims of violent crimes was compromised and the claims board failed to promptly process $10,567 in claims from the victims.

-- A manager with the Department of General Services improperly used state vehicles for his daily commute for nine years, costing the state $12,379.]

-- An employee of the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board improperly removed confidential documents from her workplace, compromising the security of personal information of victims of violent crimes and the claims board failed to promptly process $10,567 in compensation claims from these victims.

-- A manager with the Department of General Services improperly used state vehicles for his daily commute for nine years. The misuse that occurred from July 2006 through July 2009—the three years for which complete records are available—cost the State an estimated $12,379.

-- The Department of Transportation paid two employees $2,080 in total for hours that they did not work because they repeatedly left work early to teach classes at a local community college—even though both employees had been previously reprimanded for similar actions.

-- An employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles stole at least $448 in registration fees from Motor Vehicles. The employee was fired after being convicted of one count of misdemeanor theft.

-- The corrections department improperly compensated an employee $446 in overtime pay for responding to building alarm activations that never occurred. After discovering the misconduct, the agency failed to discipline the employee or seek repayment.

-- Patrick McGreevy

 
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