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State officials knew about parks surplus, former employee says

August 15, 2012 |  7:00 am

State officials were warned about a hidden surplus at the parks department earlier this year, according to a court filing from a former employee.

Cheryl Taylor, who worked at the parks department as a budget officer until January 2011, filed the document in connection on Tuesday with a sexual harassment lawsuit against Manuel Lopez, who oversaw the department's finances.

In the document, she described an April 2012 meeting with a parks official, Jennifer Comilang, and a representative from the state attorney general's office, Corrine Lee Murphy.

“They asked me if I was aware of any inappropriate use of funding by Mr. Lopez. I told them that I was aware of the under reporting of funds but that I was directed by Mr. Lopez not to report this information," she writes.

[Updated 11:15 a.m. Taylor also talked about an earlier phone conversation with an unnamed official from the attorney general's office in January 2012. She writes that she "advised this individual that I was aware that funds were being under reported but that I was directed by Mr. Lopez not to report this information."

A lawyer for Lopez declined to comment.]

The court filing, first reported by the Associated Press, could mean more state officials knew about the hidden surplus at the parks department than previously revealed. The parks director, Ruth Coleman, and her deputy were forced to resign last month when $54 million was found in two accounts at the department. The discovery spawned multiple investigations.

Richard Stapler, a spokesman for the California Natural Resources Agency, which oversees the parks department, declined to comment on Taylor's court filing.

"We are very intent on getting to the bottom of the matter. However, we’re not going to be able to comment until the conclusion of the investigation," he said.

The attorney general's office has also declined to comment about their ongoing probe.

CORRECTION 11:15 a.m.: An earlier version of this post cited a court document that said Taylor met with officials to talk about the surplus at the parks department in 2011. An updated court document corrected the record to say the meeting happened in April 2012, and also added details about another meeting in January 2012, described above.

ALSO:

California finds $119 million more in untapped funds

California lawmakers probe parks department, special funds

Brown administration pledges to keep closer eye on special funds

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
twitter.com/chrismegerian

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