A state parks employee who was punished last year for her role in an illegal buyout of employee vacation time has lost her appeal of that disciplinary action.
Paris Jackson, assistant personnel director at the California Department of Parks and Recreation, allegedly falsified payroll codes so a select group of employees at parks headquarters in Sacramento could cash out unused vacation time. The buyout was ordered by Manuel Lopez, former deputy director of administration at the department, who resigned.
Jackson was slapped with a 5 percent pay cut as punishment for her role. The pay reduction began in August 2012 and runs for a year. She retained her position at the department and continues to work there.
In an appeal to the State Personnel Board, she asserted that she was merely carrying out orders and following precedent set down by prior buyouts. She asked that the disciplinary action be dismissed and her pay restored.
In an April 22 ruling, administrative law judge Jason Krestoff denied the appeal. He called the penalty appropriate and found that Jackson had a duty to make sure executive staff orders are carried out according to the rules.
"Appellant's lack of awareness of her own actions weighs in favor of a substantial penalty," Krestoff wrote.
The Bee obtained the ruling last week through a Public Records Act request.
Jackson's attorney, Jeffrey Fulton, said his client is content with the ruling because it acknowledges she did nothing intentionally malicious or deceptive.
"Quite frankly, we're pleased with the decision because it exonerated her of any intentional misconduct or anything that was nefarious," Fulton said.
The buyout, first reported by The Bee, was illegal because the California Department of Human Resources had previously banned all vacation buyouts due to the state's tenuous financial position. Lopez claimed he authorized the buyout to spend down a cash surplus in the department at the end of the fiscal year in 2011.
A total of 56 employees received vacation payouts, costing the state about $250,000 in the midst of a budget crisis. Lopez personally received the largest buyout payments among all employees who participated.
Contact The Bee's Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser.