Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) publicly called on the California Attorney General to take action against those individuals in the CA Parks and Recreation Department who deliberately attempted to hide $20 million in taxpayer money. The following remarks are from today’s Senate Floor address:
Parks Hidden Funds Scandal and CalFIRE Letter to AG
Remarks as Drafted
Mr. President and Colleagues:
Tomorrow, April 12th, marks the one-year anniversary of a deposition given by a former Budget Officer at the Department of Parks and Recreation, to a Deputy Attorney General investigating improper vacation buy-backs.
This was a significant event because it was the first evidence provided to DOJ of the larger scandal at the Department of Parks, which was the plot to hide $20 million from the Legislature and the public while state parks were being closed for lack of funding.
According to transcripts, the Budget Officer told investigators, “what they post in the Governor’s budget is not the true balance of the account.” To which the Deputy Attorney General replied, “Well, that’s interesting.”
It was not interesting enough, however, to be mentioned in the Deputy AG’s report, on May 1st.
But when our Vice Chair of Budget sought to bring in the appropriate Parks people before the budget committee to testify, he was visited by a couple of Department of Justice officials and asked not to compel testimony, because they were conducting a criminal investigation.
It’s been one year, but no one has been held criminally liable for hiding $20 million. In fact, DOJ made it virtually impossible to prosecute anyone because of the wide grants of immunity that were doled out.
In the year since the Parks Hidden Money became a public scandal we have found widespread budget errors and inaccurate fiscal predictions of fees by the Public Utilities Commission, and that CalFIRE is hiding money in an off-budget account.
This is about transparency and accountability. Public servants are entrusted with hundreds of billions of dollars. The people of California need to know that we are watching out for them – providing oversight and taking care of their money.
They need to know that we are sincere in our efforts to prevent fraud, waste and abuse – and that there are real consequences for bureaucrats that violate the laws and rules.
A few months ago, Assembly Republican Leader Conway and I asked the Attorney General to seek an outside investigator for an inquiry into the matter of the off-books account kept by CalFire. Yet she hasn’t even bothered to respond.
So, today I ask aloud – how do we restore their faith in government? What is being done differently a year later? Who will be held accountable? And why can’t our State Attorney General respond to a letter from legislative leaders regarding the need for an aggressive and independent investigation?
Thank you Members – I know, that together, we can increase the public’s trust in their government.
Senator Huff serves as the Senate Republican Leader and represents the 29th Senate District covering portions of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties.