California park officials reportedly kept $20 million hidden for years out of fear the government would slash the department’s budget.
In a report released on Friday, it was revealed that several high-ranking officials in the California Department of Parks and Recreation kept millions of dollars in state funds secretly squirreled away from prying eyes.
According to NBC News, Deputy Attorney General Thomas M. Patton said employees were embarrassed and feared the government might cut budgets once they realized what had happened. Staff members said the monies had been stashed away for years.
“Throughout this period of intentional non-disclosure, some parks employees consistently requested, without success, that their superiors address the issue,” Patton wrote in his report.
Parks Director Ruth Coleman reportedly resigned and a senior official was fired after it was discovered that $54 million was found in two separate funds just as several dozen California parks were on the proverbial chopping block.
Roughly $20 million of the money was hidden, while the other $34 million was the result of discrepancy due to “differences in the timing of the fund reports to the state finance department and the controller’s office.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Aaron Robertson discovered the problem when he started working for the department in early 2012. He stated that people were uneasy about addressing the hidden money for fear of what might happen as a result.
John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources, said in a statement that new policies being put into place should prevent this sort of thing from happening again in the future.
“It is now clear that this is a problem that could have been fixed by a simple correction years ago, instead of being unaddressed for so long that it turned into a significant blow to public trust in government.”
Although none of the employees spent or misused the $20 million hidden for years by California officials, the report is being handed off to law enforcement officials to see if charges should be filed.