Clandestine Money-Grab Uncovered
THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY and Fire Protection (CalFire) has been exposed of hiding $3.6 million in a secret account instead of depositing it into the state's general fund as required by law.
A vigorous investigation by the Los Angeles Times uncovered the practice which reportedly was discontinued last year. According to the Times:
For seven years, Cal Fire placed the money with the nonprofit California District Attorneys Assn., paying the group to hold it. The department used the cash for equipment purchases and training.
The practice ended last year amid questions about whether the fund was legal.
The money came from legal settlements. Cal Fire's own regulations state that the proceeds of such settlements go to the state's general fund.
After questions from The Times last week, Cal Fire director, Ken Pimlott, notified the state Natural Resources Agency and state Department of Finance about the fund. The Department of Finance is planning an investigation.
The investigation follows (earlier) revelations that the state Department of Parks and Recreation hid $20 million as parks were being closed because of budget cuts. In the wake of the parks scandal, the Department of Finance looked for secret funds in other areas but did not find Cal Fire's account with the prosecutors' association, a spokesman said.
Auditors found more than $200 million that agencies had squirreled away as lawmakers cut the state budget.
The Cal Fire fund is the latest discovery of money hidden by California agencies and raises questions of whether there are others that, like this one, were entirely off the state books.
Recommended reading: The full story from the Los Angeles Times HERE.
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CalFire is the nation's largest fire department operating out of 803 fire stations. They employ 4,700 firefighters plus another 3,100 seasonal FF's and 5,600 volunteers. CalFire operates 1,095 engines, 38 aerials and several hundred specialized units, plus about 3 dozen aircraft.
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