It won't really make it down to you in the news....but out in California this week, there's this small item which ought to make you wonder. Someone apparently got around to doing an audit of the Califorinia state parks department. Don't ask why, but they did.
In the end, the audit guys come to realize that the parks department had been sitting on roughly $54 million for at least a decade....maybe even twelve years.
It's an interesting thing. Back around 2001, the state parks department had 3,247 employees, which you have to admit.....that's a pretty fair number of folks, but California is a big state, and it has around two hundred state parks across the whole state. The thing is....they grew....to roughly 4,094 employees today (numbers from the Rocklin & Roseville site). The thing is.....there was 500 empty positions. Every year, the department went back for full funding and got it....but they just didn't hire folks to fill 500 slots. Cash in.....no cash out (so to speak).
The comical side of this....because the state of California is in such bad shape.....they hadn't authorized any vacation-time buy-back to any state employees in five years. Well....that was the state rule. But the state parks department had this nifty deal....as long as you worked for the headquarters organization, they'd quietly approve your vacation-buy-back deal. Last year....it's reported that they paid out at least $250k, while it was unauthorized by the state. There's some talk that the state just might come back around and insist on getting their money back.
So as the Parks department came forward over the past couple of years and continually talked up the terrible closure of various parks throughout the state because of a lack of funds.....there came these private folks up and donations popped up left and right. What the state could not fund....the private guys would help with.....with the use of their wealth and generosity. Yet, the department sat there with $54 million in their bank account.
The head of the state parks department has resigned. I'm guessing that some private foundation in California will find some way of hiring her and keeping her busy for a couple of years. The $54 million? It'll be put on public display, and probably spent in less than thirty days.
This all generates some thoughts within the Governor's office....that millions more may be stashed away. So I'm guessing a massive audit will occur now. They might find millions, or find nothing.
In the end, you end up looking at the state parks department like some mafia operation. They knew how to get the cash from the state legislature. They knew how to get cash from wealthy dimwits who were all into the environment, hills, green grass, and saving things. The mafia leadership took care of the lieutenants and ensured that things kept going. The $54 million probably could have kept the seventy parks slated for closure up and running. The empty 500 positions? I'm guessing that the state has figured out their scheme and cut those billets.
Life goes on.....while the sun sets on the California coast.