State Parks Funding

Republicans call for former State Parks director to testify about financial problems

Republican leaders in the Legislature on Wednesday called for former State Parks director Ruth Coleman and others to testify about financial problems at the agency.

In a letter to Democratic majority leaders, the authors list at least 17 people they want to testify. They specifically name 11, some of whom departed in the wake of the fiscal scandal, including Coleman, her chief deputy Michael Harris, former administrative deputy director Manuel Harris, and chief counsel Ann Malcolm.

The letter was signed by Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar; Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway of Tulare; Bill Emmerson of Hemet, vice-chair of the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Committee; and Jim Nielsen of Gerber, vice-chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.

"It is essential that we thoroughly investigate and remedy the special fund budgeting process to prevent such abuses in the future," they wrote.

The letter is meant to guide oversight hearings now being planned by the Legislature to get to the bottom of the scandal, in which it was discovered State Parks had hidden nearly $54 million in two special funds for at least 12 years. Last year, Lopez also carried out an unauthorized vacation buyout program for parks headquarters employees that cost taxpayers more than $270,000.

The four lawmakers also specify that they want leaders to testify from other key agencies, including finance, the controller's office, the attorney general and personnel administration.

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