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California state workers misbehaving: audit uncovers incidents

December 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A new audit report highlights many state employees who have broken the law or engaged in questionable behavior, costing taxpayers millions. Most of the auditor's tips came from state workers.

The biggest case cited this year in the State Auditor's report involved a bribery scheme where a courier was able to pay Los Angeles-based employees of the Secretary of State and Franchise Tax Board under the table for processing numerous documents and letters off the books that normally cost $15 to $20 a page.

All three were convicted and must pay back the state nearly $250,000.

"What we see here is a lot of absolute, abject fraudulent activity," said Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. "Add that to the waste and just the mismanagement of state government, and I think it has taxpayers scratching their heads. Why don't we have more accountability?"

Auditors also found:

- An EDD technician helped two accomplices illegally obtain nearly $100,000 of unemployment benefits. The technician is now in prison.
- A Natural Resources Agency executive allowed nearly $50,000 in commuting costs to be reimbursed.
- A Fish and Game Supervisor required a farmer leasing land from the state to provide him with $5,000 in Home Depot gift cards.
-A Department of Education employee filled his work for more than a year day by posting almost 5,000 comments to stories on the Sacramento Bee website. The employee has since resigned.

Most of the 7,000 tips reported to the California Whistleblower Hotline came from state workers who care how taxpayer money is spent. Most are good, hardworking employees.

"All of us are here to do a public service. We should be good stewards of the funds that are being used for our services and we should be vigilant of that," said Margarita Fernandez of the State Auditor's Office.

Taxpayer groups want more uncovered.

"The day-to-day oversight of state government is not sexy, but it's where the real action is and quite frankly, it's where taxpayer money can be saved," Coupal said.


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