California Department of Parks and Recreation executives made "conscious and deliberate" decisions to hide $20 million in an agency account because they feared that revealing the funds to state finance officials would cause embarrassment and further budget cuts, an investigation by the state attorney general's office concluded.
The report, released Friday, describes the findings of the investigation that began last year after revelations that state parks officials had stashed $54 million in parks accounts, even as the department was threatening to close parks because of funding shortfalls. Parks officials kept the money secret by failing to report it to budget officials in Gov. Jerry Brown's administration and with past administrations.
Much of that $54 million - $34 million was found in the Off-Highway Vehicle Fund - went unreported because of poor accounting procedures in that fund, and there was no evidence that this money was intentionally hidden, according to Thomas Patton, the deputy attorney general who conducted the investigation.
However, the remainder, $20 million in the State Parks and Recreation Fund, was intentionally hidden, according to the investigation that relied on interviews with 40 current and former parks employees and other documentation.