The State Worker

Report: Lax control of hiring, state vehicles, at California prison department

State Auditor Elaine M. Howle (left) speaks at a legislative hearing.
State Auditor Elaine M. Howle (left) speaks at a legislative hearing. jvillegas@sacbee.com

California’s prison system has failed to adequately track vehicles it issues to managers, has brought retirees back into management jobs without clearly justifying why, and allowed some to work longer than California law allows, according a new state audit.

A sample of Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records for vehicles driven by managers and retired annuitants found that 14 of 21 permits to use the state’s property “did not sufficiently document the cost-effective or essential nature” of the assignments. Some employees took vehicles home before they had obtained official approval and just three of 28 managers and retired annuitants submitted all the monthly paperwork required for personal use of a state-owned vehicle. None submitted travel logs.

State Auditor Elaine Howle also raised questions about the department’s hiring and use of retired annuitants for management-level positions. A review of 20 retirees who worked for the department found:

▪ Corrections didn’t adequately document why it hired nine managerial retired annuitants.

▪ Nine managerial retired annuitants were to start work before obtaining the necessary approvals.

▪ While retirees are supposed to be hired for short-term work, the department employed some managerial retired annuitants to work to manage ongoing operations “or work on projects year after year rather than for limited durations as state law requires.”

▪ Failed to consistently verify that the retirees it hired were eligible for employment and hired them instead of seeking to fill positions with permanent employees.

▪ Some retirees worked longer than the 960 hours per year the law allows, exposing Corrections and the retired annuitants to “severe financial penalties for unlawful employment.” The penalties could include repaying CalPERS for pension payments made to the retiree, and employer and employee contributions to the fund for time the retiree worked.

Howle recommended that Corrections “provide hiring managers and staff with guidance” on the laws and procedures for hiring retirees, train managers and staff about “the use and accurate completion of vehicle logs,” and require regular review of travel logs for pooled vehicles.

In a response letter, Corrections Undersecretary Diana Toche said the department “agrees it can strengthen internal controls” and is working to that end.

Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.

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