County parks cooked books
to hide spending, audit says
Monday, Aug. 7, 2000
By Troy Anderson
...Los Angeles County park
officials overspent their budget by $3 million and "intentionally manipulated"
records to hide the mistake, the Daily News has learned.
Auditors uncovered a pattern
of mismanagement, including wasteful purchases, overpayments and missing or
stolen inventory, as well as contracting and bidding violations, according to a
confidential draft copy of an audit obtained by the Daily News. "Our review
disclosed evidence that some accounting records were intentionally manipulated
to show a better than actual budgetary position," according to the
Supervisors said they are
outraged.... [and] have approved $3 million to make up the budget shortfall, but
Department of Parks and Recreation Rodney E. Cooper told the board he needs more
money to keep parks open and meet surging demand.
"Hopefully, he's not using that to
justify cooking the books," Knabe said.
"Unfortunately, the public will not
be seeing any increase in service with this allocation because the department
overspent its existing budget."
Cooper did not respond to requests
for comment. Other parks officials denied wrongdoing....
[Assistant director] De La
Riva refused to comment on specific finding in the audit.
"We did make errors because we ran
out of money, and towards the end of the year, we did not correctly set up the
De La Riva said the budget problems
were the result of two factors. First, the $1.2 billion Proposition A parks bond
that voters passed in 1992 and 1996 led to more gyms, senior centers, parks,
soccer fields and other recreational facilities.
But the department's $78 million
budget hasn't allowed officials to add to its 900-employee work
The first hint of a problem came
during an annual audit, which uncovered the $3 million shortfall. A second audit
found widespread mismanagement.
A sample inventory of Department of
Parks and Recreation warehouses revealed 73 percent of park maintenance and
office supplies were missing or stolen.
Of 33 items, 24 percent to 73
percent were not on the department's inventory lists. Auditors said warehouse
staff attributed the missing items to inventory "software
In some cases, park items were
purchased from vendors the county does not have agreements with, and invoices
were paid without adequate evidence that the goods were received.
In one of these purchases, the
department paid double the agreement price ....
....Auditors sampled 15 employees
receiving the bilingual bonus and found as many as one-third did not appear
* It seems the taxpayers never learn that
government's ever-increasing demand for more of their hard-earned money
invariably results in more fraud. The efforts of government to reach deeper and
deeper into the taxpayers' pockets is usually done in the name of "helping the
The California Lottery was promoted
in the name of "Helping our schools," but once installed, what happened to the
money? The supposed one-third benefit has resulted in near no net gain to its
intended target - the schools.
"Running out of money" while not
answering on what happened to the lottery money for the schools, they cried
for more bond money under the pretext that Los Angeles schools were
The voters, again responding
out of compassion, were suckered out of billions more dollars only to
immediately result in the earthshaking Belmont Learning Center scandal. Fraud
abounded and millions were raked off to who knows. This lead to
accusations and counter-accusations with fingers pointing everywhere and the
untimely resignation of the Director of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
We still have not arrived at the bottom of that scandal, and now have a
"Taj Mahal" multi-million dollar complex sitting on a noxious dumpsite
emitting dangerous gases. Many were made rich, but what did the taxpayers
receive in their goal for "better schools?"
Leave it to the taxpayers to become
soaked again, as they never learn from the past. Proposition A was promoted
as another need "for the children." Again they reached deep into their pockets.
Here now De La Riva, cites to Proposition A as a "factor" in the missing $3
million, and the voters are at fault.
Count on it folks, the children WILL
be used again for another future scandal!
Anyone want to buy a bridge I own?
Only a half-billion dollars. It's a good deal, really. I'll contribute 50% of
the sale to good schools. -Ron Branson
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"There are a thousand hacking
at the branches of evil to one
who is striking at the root." --
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