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Investigation of Improper Activities by State Agencies and Employees
Waste of State Funds, Misuse of Bereavement Leave, Misuse of State Resources,
Dishonesty, and Supervisory Neglect of Duty

Report Number: I2020-1


Investigative Highlights . . .

State employees and agencies engaged in various improper governmental activities, including the following:

Results in Brief

Under the authority of the California Whistleblower Protection Act (Whistleblower Act), the California State Auditor (State Auditor) conducted investigative work from January 1, 2019, through December 31, 2019, on 1,645 allegations of improper governmental activity. These investigations substantiated numerous improper activities, including the waste of state funds, misuse of bereavement leave, misuse of various state resources, dishonesty, and supervisory neglect of duty. Within this report, we provide information on a selection of these cases.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Fish and Wildlife) wasted more than a half million dollars of state and federal funds when it purchased a custom-built boat in June 2017 that it cannot use for research surveys as it intended. Weaknesses in Fish and Wildlife's procurement process enabled this wasteful purchase. In particular, it relied on a now-retired environmental program manager (program manager) to write a technical scope of work for construction of the research boat. However, the program manager lacked the necessary skills and did not seek help from appropriate experts. In addition, the program manager did not inform Fish and Wildlife when he verbally agreed to significant changes to the contract that he should have documented. To compound matters, Fish and Wildlife's regional manager approved final payment to the contractor for services and equipment that it did not receive. Ultimately, the original specifications and subsequent changes were inadequate to ensure that Fish and Wildlife could use the research boat as it intended. As a result, the research boat has been largely unused for more than two years.

California Department of Veterans Affairs

A veterans long-term care home (veterans home) administrator at the California Department of Veterans Affairs wasted nearly $38,000 in state funds by failing to ensure that veterans home staff followed state procedures to inspect a bedbug treatment oven (equipment) upon delivery. The equipment has been inoperable since its delivery in 2015 and has deteriorated because staff left it outdoors and unprotected from the elements for more than four years.

Bereavement Leave

From July 2016 through June 2018, seven employees at five state agencies—the California Air Resources Board, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Department of General Services, the California Department of Social Services (Social Services), and the Employment Development Department—improperly claimed a total of more than 320 hours of bereavement leave with a value of almost $10,000. In all seven instances, the supervisors for the employees failed to adequately review their timesheets to ensure that employees charged bereavement leave in accordance with permissible limits.

California Energy Commission

For several years, a supervisor at the California Energy Commission (commission) violated state law when she improperly distributed commission-paid parking permits to up to seven of her staff members so that she and they could park their personal vehicles at the State's expense. Her misuse of the parking permits resulted in the employees receiving free parking at an estimated cost to the State of $13,500.

California Department of Transportation

Two Caltrans employees failed to obtain valid vehicle home storage permits for their state-owned vehicles. They also improperly used these vehicles to commute between their homes and headquarters.

Department of State Hospitals

A psychiatrist at one of the hospitals in the Department of State Hospitals (DSH) improperly used 46 hours of state-compensated continuing medical education leave to work at another job that conflicted with the psychiatrist's regularly scheduled workdays at the DSH hospital. The psychiatrist's misuse of this leave cost the State nearly $6,500.

In addition, a psychiatric technician at one of the DSH hospitals reported working nearly 50 hours that the technician did not actually work during a one-year period, resulting in a cost to the State of about $1,500.

California Department of Public Health

Two employees of the California Department of Public Health arrived to work late, took extended breaks, and left work early without accounting for their missed work time. We estimate that during the one-year period we reviewed, these employees missed nearly 300 hours of work, costing the State more than $9,300 in salary it paid for work that was not performed.

Franchise Tax Board

An administrator at the Franchise Tax Board did not work her agreed-upon work hours, and she was dishonest about the hours that she actually worked. In addition, the administrator's most recent supervisor neglected his responsibility to ensure that the administrator properly accounted for her work hours.

California Prison Industry Authority

Over a three-year period, three California Prison Industry Authority supervisors in one unit failed to ensure that the attendance records for a subordinate employee were accurate, even though they were aware that these records likely did not reflect the employee's actual attendance. In addition, the employee was dishonest during the investigation when he provided conflicting information about his attendance.

California Department of Social Services

Social Services failed to recover an overpayment to a former employee and failed to ensure that another employee used bereavement leave appropriately.

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