New report reveals misuse of money by state workers

Report: Worker spent day posting on news website

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A new report details numerous accounts of state workers wasting time and taxpayer dollars.

The biggest case cited this year in the State Auditor's report involved a bribery scheme where a courier was able to pay Los Angeles-based employees of the Secretary of State 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 $250,000.

"From a taxpayer's perspective, it's a very big deal … What we see here is a lot of absolute, abject fraudulent activity. Add that to the waste and mismanagement of state government, I think it has taxpayers scratching their heads ... why don't we have more accountability?" said Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Auditors also found:

-- an EDD technician, who is now in prison, helped two accomplices illegally obtain nearly $100,000 of unemployment benefits
-- a Natural Resources Agency executive allowed nearly $50,000 in commuting costs to be reimbursed
-- a  Fish and Game Supervisor required a farmer leasing land from the state to provide him with $5,000 in Home Depot gift cards
-- 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 state's Whistleblowers Hotline came from state workers who care how taxpayer money is spent. Most are good, hardworking employees.

Margarita Fernandez of the California State Auditor's Office said, "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 vigilent of that."

Taxpayer groups want more uncovered.

"The day-to-day oversight of state government is not 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 activated in 1993, the State Auditor reports 526 cases worth $31 million have resulted in public employees being reprimanded, fired or convicted.

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