California News

Cities demand donated Parks Department money back after secret funds discovered

Monday, August 06, 2012

California cities and individual donors who pitched in to save state parks from budget cuts now want their money back. This follows revelations that state parks officials deceived lawmakers and the governor's staff about nearly $54 million in two special park funds.

The city of Whittier sent the state $20,000 to save Pio Pico State Historic Park and its historic adobe house. Many local governments gave the state money for parks. Seventy state parks were targeted for closing. Then the state discovered it had more than $50 million it didn't know about in state parks accounts. Whittier and other local governments want their money back.

"To all those people they in essence deceived and said 'We don't have any money to keep the parks open' when they did, they ought to refund that money and not hold onto the money that we have sent them," said Whittier Mayor Owen Newcomer.

Ventura County sent the state $50,000 to keep McGrath State Beach open. Ventura County also is demanding a refund. The city of Oxnard donated $50,000 to the state for McGrath State Beach and wants its money back.

Governor Jerry Brown launched an audit of accounting practices. The attorney general's office also is investigating where the money came from and why it wasn't discovered until after closure plans began.

Communities across the state had bake sales and other fundraisers to keep the parks open. Even children collected and donated money.

Mayor Newcomer says it went into its meager reserve funds to come up with money to keep Pio Pico Park open.

"Friends of Pio Pico came up with money, the city of Whittier pledged money, and now we find out the state had money all along and when they said we can't afford to keep your parks open, they were lying," said Newcomer.

There has been no response as to whether the state will return the money to places like Whittier.

Governor Brown has asked for patience. In his words, it's "totally unacceptable for Parks personnel to squirrel away public funds."

Now that the state has the money, the question is will they use the money to keep state parks open. The state Legislature may vote later this week.

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Tags:
budget, california state assembly, california state senate, jerry brown, california news, john north
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