Resigning parks director 'appalled' to learn of hidden surplus
In resigning her position, state parks Director Ruth Coleman said she had been "appalled'' to learn that $54 million in surplus funds had not been reported by her department even while the state was having to close parks.
In a resignation letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, Coleman said it was "with great sadness" that she was stepping down after 18 years of state service.
"While I was unaware of the excessive balance in the State Park and Recreation Fund, I must accept full responsibility as a director of a department for the veracity of budget documents issued by the department," Coleman wrote. "I have always taken the public trust to heart and honored it and I am personally appalled to learn that our documents were not accurate."
Coleman said her office contacted the state Department of Finance when she learned of the problem. Her parting words were to ask for more help for the department.
News of the unreported surplus infuriated state lawmakers who had to explain to constituents in recent months why parks were being shuttered or having their hours curtailed.
"This discovery uncovers the ultimate betrayal of public trust," said Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), calling the actions of parks officials "inconceivable."
She called for the governor to order all parks reopened in her district and to order an administration-wide audit to see if similar problems exist in other departments. "If one department can hoard $54 million for 12 years, who else is playing the same tricks of deceit and thievery?"
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento