Key players in parks scandal
07/21/2012 12:00 AM
08/21/2012 9:24 PM
Here are key players in the emerging scandal at the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
RUTH COLEMAN, 52
Connection: Appointed to head the state parks department by Gov. Gray Davis in 2002. Resigned Friday after officials learned the department had been sitting on nearly $54 million in surplus money as it planned to close parks because of a supposed lack of funds.
Background: Was the longest-running parks director in state history. Had recently been under fire from park managers, who wrote to Gov. Jerry Brown last year asking him to appoint a new director, saying Coleman "is an honorable person, but she has been largely absent in making sense of the new economic realities." Coleman was known for expanding the state parks system into underserved regions, promoting outdoor recreation and creating financial partnerships with nonprofits and corporations.
JANELLE BELAND, 43
Connection: Replaces Coleman as acting Interim Director of the parks department.
Background: Undersecretary of the California Natural Resources Agency since May 2011. Previously worked for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sen. Leland Yee, Assemblyman Mike Gordon, Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez, all Democrats; the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; the Speaker's Office of Member Services; and the state Department of Justice.
JOHN LAIRD, 62
Connection: Head of the Natural Resources Agency, which oversees the parks department.
Background: Represented the Santa Cruz-Monterey area in the state Assembly from 2002 to 2008. Served on the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees from 1994 to 2002. Served on the Santa Cruz City Council from 1981 to 1990.
RUSTY AREIAS, 62
Connection: Was director of the Department of Parks and Recreation from 1998-2001. Budgetary irregularities in the department date back to at least 2000, the Brown administration said Friday.
Background: Partner at California Strategies, an influential consulting firm. Represented the Los Banos area in the state Assembly from 1982 to 1994. Served on the California Coastal Commission for four years. Areias and wife Julie Sandino frequently hold fundraising parties for Democrats at their Walnut Grove home, including a $2,500-a-head dinner for Brown in 2010.
MICHAEL F. HARRIS
Connection: Was Coleman's second-in-command as acting chief deputy director of the parks department until being fired Friday.
Background: Joined the parks department in 2004, serving in three high-ranking positions over the last eight years. Previously worked for the Department of Fish and Game, the state Senate, the Department of Conservation and the Legislative Analyst's Office. Served six years in the U.S. Navy.
MANUEL THOMAS LOPEZ, 45
Connection: Former deputy director of administrative services at the parks department. Several sources have identified him as the person who carried out an unauthorized vacation buyout program, which gave 56 parks employees cash for accrued vacation time.
Background: The Bee began inquiring about rumors of a surplus of funds at the parks department when it learned about the buyout program. Lopez was demoted in October and resigned in May. He lives in Granite Bay.
Editor's Choice Videos
Join the Discussion
The Sacramento Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.