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Former state parks official fined $7,000 by state watchdog group

February 15, 2013|By Anthony York

SACRAMENTO — The administrator at the state parks department who authorized an illegal vacation buyout program for parks employees  has been hit with a $7,000 fine from the state’s watchdog agency.

The Fair Political Practices Commission announced the action against Manuel Thomas Lopez, 45, in a case that helped lead to the ouster of top officials at the California Department of Parks and Recreation last year and the resignation of agency Director Ruth Coleman.

Lopez was the deputy director of the department’s Administrative Services Division and illegally cashed out more than 500 hours of his own leave time, worth more than $28,000.

The program authorized by Lopez allowed employees to cash in more than $285,000 worth of accrued vacation time.

In a document released by the FPPC on Friday, the agency said Lopez was “making governmental decisions in which [he] knew he had a financial interest,” in violation of state law.

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anthony.york@latimes.com

@anthonyyorklat

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