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Limousine rides, other improper conduct by state employees uncovered through whistleblower hotline

State auditors found a UC Davis professor improperly spent $1,200 on travel expenses including three limousine rides. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
State auditors found a UC Davis professor improperly spent $1,200 on travel expenses including three limousine rides. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Whistleblowers led California auditors to discover misconduct by several state employees during the last year, including misuse of money for limousine trips and inaccurate time reporting that cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, according to a report released Thursday.

State Auditor Elaine Howle’s twice-yearly report of employee misconduct comes after her office investigated 50 cases that raised concerns.

“State agencies must report to my office any corrective or disciplinary action taken in response to recommendations we make,” Howle wrote to Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature.

In one case, a psychiatric technician at Atascadero State Hospital engaged in a pattern of attendance abuse — arriving late, leaving early and taking long lunches — without reporting his absences, resulting in him receiving more than $7,500 in improper overtime pay in a year, the auditors said.

A UC Davis professor wasted funds by improperly billing the system nearly $1,200 for three limousine trips and two additional travel expenses, the auditors said. The professor said the limousine rides were used to discuss business matters with visitors from outside organizations, but he was unable to back up the claim, the audit said.

In addition, auditors determined that an analyst at the California Department of Social Services misused state resources when she used her state email account to send or receive almost 400 personal emails from August 2015 through May 2016.

Two other inaccurate timekeeping cases uncovered by auditors cost the state more than $10,000.

The whistleblower hotline has helped auditors identify improper governmental activities that have cost the state a total of $576.6 million since 1993.

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