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Whistle-blower cases cost California $89,000, state auditor reports

California auditor's report sums up 10 investigations of 'improper government activity' accusations

A California agency that investigates whistle-blower complaints announced this week that government agencies and employees cost the state more than $89,000 by embezzling money and committing other misdeeds over the course of roughly two years.

A new report sums up 10 investigations of accusations of waste, misconduct and other "improper government activity," conducted from July 2012 through July 2014 by the California state auditor and other state agencies. It does not include some other violations that were previously reported by the state auditor.

Among the violations laid out in the new report: A manager at the State Water Resources Control Board pocketed more than $3,500 in cash that she obtained by recycling some old furniture no longer used by the board. Such payments are supposed to go to the accounting office, but "she put the cash in her purse and took it to her home at the end of each day," the report said.

When the state auditor began questioning witnesses about what had happened, the manager tried to cover up by filing a police report claiming that her car had been burglarized more than a month earlier, the report stated. She repaid about $2,500 to the board, but transferred to another state agency before the investigation was over, leaving nearly $1,000 unpaid.

The water board told the state auditor it was trying to recover the money, had contacted the state agency where the former manager now works, and would ask the district attorney in the area to examine whether the woman — who was not identified — could be prosecuted, according to the report. It also planned to create a new policy for recycling surplus items, as the state auditor recommended.

The state auditor also investigated a Department of Industrial Relations employee accused of lying to his manager by saying he needed to telecommute so that he could care for his ailing mother, then working a second job that conflicted with his government employment for almost a year.

The result was that the state paid him for at least five to eight hours every week that he didn't actually work, according to the report — a sum exceeding $12,000. The investigation faulted the Department of Industrial Relations for failing to track and supervise his work more closely. The man was not named.

The report also said that the Employment Development Department improperly reimbursed a worker for nearly $27,000 in travel expenses, and it criticized the California Military Department as having lost about $33,000 worth of state property by failing to properly keep track of inventory, among other violations.

"Although the Military Department subsequently implemented a corrective action plan intended to prevent further waste, it has not yet completed its effort to ensure accountability for state property more than three years after it provided the state auditor with its plan," state Auditor Elaine Howle wrote.

emily.alpert@latimes.com
Twitter: @LATimesEmily

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