Last summer, it was reported that the California Department of Parks and Recreation had been hiding more than $50 million even as the governor and Legislature were desperately slashing spending to address a multibillion-dollar budget gap. Today, the public knows a few more things about what happened and how. Yet what we still don't know is galling, particularly because the woman who was in charge refuses to speak about it.
A report released last week by the state attorney general's office makes it clear that not all of the money was being concealed; in fact, the bulk of the funds, more than $30 million in fees paid by off-road vehicle users, appears not to have been hidden at all. For 10 or so years, though, the existence of an additional $20 million was intentionally kept from both the public and state finance authorities, with the parks department reporting different totals to two agencies. Several top parks officials were implicated; one said the money was considered a "rainy day" fund.
But key questions remain unanswered. How did that $20 million accrue in the first place? It appears to have been unintentional, the report said, a result, at least in the beginning, of calculation errors. So should we chalk the whole thing up to incompetence? The report also doesn't address whether any crimes were committed.