The next time you hear a Sacramento politician say that the state needs more of your hard-earned money, you might want to show him state Auditor Elaine Howle’s recent report, “Investigations of Improper Activities by State Agencies and Employees: Waste of State Funds, Misuse of State Resources, Falsification of Records, Inexcusable Neglect of Duty, Failure to Monitor Time Reporting, and Other Violations of State Law.”
The report details seven cases in which hundreds of thousands of tax dollars were wasted.
The most egregious is the executive in the Department of Mental Health who wasted at least $51,000 in 2009 alone by being paid to attend the Golden Globe and Night of 100 Stars award shows, a Julio Iglesias concert, numerous parties, fundraisers, golf tournaments, galas and retirement dinners, a swearing-in ceremony and the funeral of a famous comedian.
He also charged the state for his time planning a large gala benefiting a nonprofit organization he runs.
The executive, who “worked” from home and was provided a state vehicle, justified his time by claiming he was trying to get celebrities to serve as spokespeople to reduce the stigma of mental illness and mental health treatment.
There’s no mention of whether he signed up any celebrities, but we imagine that Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan were probably busy.
If the partying executive’s previous 10 years “on the job” were anything like 2009, he wasted more than a half-million taxpayer dollars.
But rather than firing this deadbeat and requiring reimbursement, the scammer was merely asked to party on his own time. He instead chose to retire. No money will be recovered. The one consolation is that his position has been eliminated.
The report also describes a chief psychologist for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation who left work early every day, and while in the office spent 30 percent of his time using a state computer for his private practice. The cost to taxpayers is more than $212,000 over five years.
But instead of firing this scammer and forcing him to reimburse the state, the department simply allowed him to agree to be demoted to a staff psychologist.
The report also describes employees who falsified time and attendance records in order to receive increased retirement benefits, a supervisor who neglected to supervise the work of an employee for nearly three years and a manager who improperly directed an employee to use a state vehicle for her commute.
A previous report revealed that the California State University system improperly reimbursed a former official $152,441 for unnecessary expenses, and is refusing to implement the auditor’s recommendation for corrective action, allowing the waste to continue.
In addition, the department failed to account for employees’ use of union leave in 2005, costing taxpayers $1.6 million.
In a state with an $86 billion budget and more than 410,000 employees, it’s extremely likely that these whistle-blower cases are just the tip of the waste, fraud and abuse iceberg. Last year, gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman estimated the total to be $10 billion to $15 billion.
With the state budget likely facing another multibillion-dollar deficit, state officials should first clean up their own house before asking us for more money.