A joint Assembly and state Senate committee announced recently that it would conduct a hearing to determine the extent that California agencies have been using off-budget accounts to hold money outside the state system.
The announcement came on the heels of a Los Angeles Times story revealing that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) appears to have hidden $3.6 million in separate accounts, rather than depositing it in the state’s general fund.
State Senator Ted Gaines (R-Roseville) was one of many outraged lawmakers at the revelation. On Tuesday, Gaines sent a letter to the state’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris, calling for a criminal investigation into Cal Fire’s hidden funds. “How can they get away with charging rural Californians a $150 illegal fire fee and at the same time hiding millions in a secret fund? We deserve to know the truth behind what took place and why,” he insisted.
Cal Fire regulations say the money was supposed to go into the state’s general fund. But, according to the LA Times, Cal Fire instead placed the money, which came from legal settlements, with the nonprofit California District Attorneys Association.
Earlier, it was revealed that the state Department of Parks and Recreation hid $20 million as parks were being closed because of budget cuts. This led the Department of Finance to look for secret funds elsewhere. Auditors found more than $200 million that agencies had put aside as lawmakers cut the state budget. –Geisel/Los Angeles Times