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No criminal investigation of state parks accounting scandal

The scandal, which cost the parks director her job, broke last year when it was revealed that her department had a $54-million surplus even as officials were planning to close dozens of parks.

January 25, 2013|By Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times
  • A pelican glides in for a landing at Malibu Lagoon State Beach. The accounting scandal at the California parks department will end without a criminal investigation, law enforcement officials said this week.
A pelican glides in for a landing at Malibu Lagoon State Beach. The accounting… (Los Angeles Times )

SACRAMENTO — The accounting scandal at the California parks department will end without a criminal investigation, law enforcement officials said this week.

The decision will probably close an embarrassing episode for Gov. Jerry Brown's administration. The scandal, which cost the parks director her job, broke last year when it was revealed that her department had an undisclosed $54-million surplus even as officials were planning to close dozens of parks.

A subsequent probe by the attorney general's office determined that $20.4 million of the money had been intentionally concealed by officials concerned that their department's budget would be cut if the state's number crunchers knew about the extra funds.

The conclusions were sent to the Sacramento County district attorney, who rejected the case Thursday, saying the state had failed to identify any potential targets or crimes.

"Without such an initial preliminary conclusion on the part of your investigative staff that a crime was committed, the referral of the case to our office for criminal review is simply not appropriate," said the letter from Dist. Atty. Jan Scully.

She also noted that no one at the parks department appeared to profit from the hidden money, nor was it spent.

A subsequent letter from the attorney general's office said state prosecutors agreed.

"Nothing disclosed by any person … has prompted this office to commence a criminal investigation," said the letter from Senior Assistant Atty. Gen. Michael P. Farrell.

Assemblywoman Beth Gaines (R-Rocklin), who has requested a separate report on parks accounting from the state auditor, said she was disappointed.

"Something is horribly wrong with a system that allows individuals and state offices to hide or abuse millions of dollars without punishment," she said in a statement. "I am looking into legislative remedies to stop this behavior from occurring in the future."

chris.megerian@latimes.com

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