Jerry Brown defends former parks chief as 'good soldier'
Gov. Jerry Brown defended his former parks director, Ruth Coleman, saying much of the criticism she took was for implementing unpopular budget cuts he demanded. The governor's comments came as part of an interview with The Times in his Capitol office earlier this month.
Brown said he heard widespread criticism of Coleman’s leadership months before Coleman's resignation this summer, but felt that it stemmed from the embattled parks chief doing her job.
“She was a good soldier and she was taking the heat for what I was doing,” he said. “So I couldn’t tell whether she was getting criticism because she was making the tough cuts or for other reasons."
Brown said Coleman, first appointed to the job by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was in an untenable position, devising a wildly unpopular plan to close up to 70 parks.
“We were cutting the parks and they said she was carrying out what we wanted her to do and they didn’t like her,” he said. “But I said, well they probably don’t like her because she’s carrying out the cuts. That’s the way I interpreted that.”
But when it was revealed that parks officials had squirreled away millions in unspent funds without informing Brown’s top accountants, the governor felt something had to be done.
“It just turned out that it was time for a change,” he said. “I’m interviewing people right now.”
-- Anthony York in Sacramento
Photo: Ruth Coleman resigned as director of the California parks system after learning that millions in surplus funds had not been reported by her department even while the state was closing parks. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli Associated Press