California state agencies spent nearly $280,000 on “inappropriate expenditures” last year, including the cost to keep the personal boat of a parks and recreation supervisor in a public dock and the wasted time of a sewage plant employee who shopped for comic books during work hours, according to a state audit report.
The examples of misused state resources were among the 1,269 allegations of improper government activities investigated in 2022 by the California state auditor’s office. The report, released Thursday, summarizes some of the cases related to employee pay, paid leave, poor contract oversight and misuse of state resources.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Department of Industrial Relations and the Department of Parks and Recreation were each cited for misuse of state resources.
Among the biggest examples of misused funds and resources was an unnamed state agency that paid nearly $114,000 in public funds to a state analyst who was put on paid leave from March 2020 to November 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency and employee were unnamed for privacy.
The audit found that the analyst could have completed her work via telecommuting, but the state agency said the equipment necessary to work remotely was too expensive. But the audit report notes that the equipment would have cost “substantially less than paying the analyst’s full salary for 20 months while she performed no work.”
A water and sewage plant supervisor with the corrections and rehabilitation department was cited for misusing resources when he used state-owned property for his private business, and for using state computers to shop online, mostly for comic books and designer clothing during work hours, according to the report.
The state auditor’s office investigation revealed that during a four-month period, the employee had visited more than 3,600 websites unrelated to his duties on 52 separate workdays — averaging about 70 site visits per day. About 55% of those web pages were online retailers such as Craigslist, Wayfair, EBay and Costco. The CDCR said it is pursuing disciplinary action.
At the Department of Industrial Relations, a supervisor whose job was to ensure that staff used only state vehicles for work was found to have been regularly using a state vehicle for his “almost-daily” commute to work for the last three years, costing the state nearly $11,000 according to the audit. The employee said he used his own vehicle only when the state-owned car wasn’t available, such as when it was receiving maintenance.
The report found that the supervisor had driven the state-owned vehicle about 19,600 miles for personal reasons.
“Despite demonstrating a clear understanding of the standards dictating appropriate state vehicle use and his responsibility to enforce these standards with his staff, he failed to adhere to the standards himself,” according to the report.
The department said it has taken steps to address the issues and billed the employee for $4,200, which was the smallest of three estimates of costs accrued. It also said GPS trackers will be installed on its vehicles.
At the California Department of Parks and Recreation, a supervisor was cited for docking his personal boat at a public dock for more than six years, costing the state parks to lose up to $36,000 in potential revenue since 2015, according to the state auditor.
The state parks department said the employee, who was required to remove the boat from the state park in early 2022, is subject to disciplinary action.
A psychiatric technician at the Department of State Hospitals was cited for nearly 400 hours of unaccountable absences from October 2018 to August 2021, costing about $12,500 in “productive time.” According to the report, the employee regularly arrived late, took extended lunch breaks and left early from work for about three years.
The department said the technician is no longer with the agency and is establishing an accounts receivable system.
In total, California has needed remedy for about $585 million in state spending due to inefficiency, conflicts of interest and personal use of government resources during the last 30 years, according to the state auditor.
The departments must report corrective or disciplinary action taken in response to the state auditor’s recommendations within 60 days.
This story originally appeared on LA Times