Auditor's report finds state workers misbehaving

December 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Bribery, fraud and improper travel expenses are among the acts of misbehavior committed by state workers revealed in the annual whistleblower report issued by the California State Auditor.

The biggest case cited this year in the report involved a bribery scheme where a courier was able to pay Los Angeles-based employees of the Secretary of State Office 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 a quarter-of-a million dollars.

"What we see here is a lot of absolute, abject fraudulent activity. You 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?" said Jon Coupal from Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Auditors also found an EDD technician who helped two accomplices illegally obtain nearly $100,000 of unemployment benefits. The technician is now in prison.

Other instances included a Natural Resources Agency executive who allowed nearly $50,000 in commuting costs to be reimbursed and a Fish and Game Supervisor who required a farmer leasing land from the state to provide him with $5,000 in Home Depot gift cards.

And for more than a year, a Department of Education employee who has since resigned filled his work day by posting almost 5,000 comments to stories on the Sacramento Bee website.

Most of the 7,000 tips reported to the Whistleblower Hotline came from state workers who care about 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 California State Auditor's Office.

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

Since the Whistleblower Hotline was established in 1993, 526 cases worth $31 million have resulted in reprimands, terminations or convictions.


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