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$3 Million Gone - Books Cooked To Cover It Up

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    $3 Million Gone County parks cooked books to hide spending, audit says Daily News Monday, Aug. 7, 2000 By Troy Anderson Staff Writer ...Los Angeles County park
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 7, 2000
      $3 Million Gone
      County parks cooked books to hide spending, audit says
      Daily News
      Monday, Aug. 7, 2000
      By Troy Anderson
      Staff Writer
          ...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 audit.
          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 paperwork....
          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 force.
          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 malfunctions....
          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 eligible. *

      *  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 children."
          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 "falling apart."
           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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