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Parks official who OKd illegal vacation buyouts will pay fine

Manuel Thomas Lopez, 45, authorized parks department employees to cash in more than $285,000 worth of accrued vacation time.

February 15, 2013|By Anthony York, Los Angeles Times

SACRAMENTO — An administrator at California's parks department who authorized illegal vacation buyouts for employees has agreed to pay a $7,000 fine imposed by the state's ethics watchdog agency.

The Fair Political Practices Commission announced the action against Manuel Thomas Lopez, 45, in a case that helped lead to a broader financial scandal that cost top parks officials their jobs.

Lopez was deputy director of the department's Administrative Services Division. In a scheme he authorized, employees cashed in more than $285,000 worth of accrued vacation time.

In addition, he illegally cashed out more than 500 hours of his own leave time, worth more than $28,000.

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.

Discovery of the buyouts led to revelations of other accounting improprieties and the resignation of Ruth Coleman, director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

anthony.york@latimes.com

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