California parks aim to improve accounting

February 20, 2013|By Chris Megerian

California lawmakers on Tuesday peppered state officials with questions over the latest audit of the troubled parks department.

For some, the most troubling issue was the department’s inability to say how much each individual park costs, because officials track expenses by district involving multiple properties. One lawmaker referred to that as “one of the most mind-boggling parts of the report.”

Anthony Jackson, the acting parks director, said his staff was working on getting a park-by-park analysis of costs. But he said it may not be done before Gov. Jerry Brown presents his revised budget proposal in May.

Lawmakers have scheduled another hearing Wednesday morning to continue discussing the state parks system.

The audit was ordered last year after it was revealed that the parks department had a $54-million undisclosed surplus at the same time officials were threatening to close dozens of parks. About $20 million of the money had been deliberately hidden, according to an investigation by the state attorney general's office.

The lack of clear figures on park operations made it difficult to know if park officials were targeting the right facilities for closure, said State Auditor Elaine Howle.

“The information was incomplete," she said.

Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) said the audit’s findings confirm her concerns that officials weren’t relying on solid data when determining which parks would be threatened with closure.

“It’s not good bookkeeping,” she said. “It’s not transparent to the public.”

Twitter: @chrismegerian

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