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Caltrans Suspends 2 After $13,600 Is Found Missing

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Times Staff Writer

Two state Department of Transportation cashiers have been suspended indefinitely, after an audit revealed $13,600 missing, officials of the troubled agency said Tuesday.

The suspensions came a day after state Transportation Director Leo J. Trombatore, responding to the recent disclosure of abuse of overtime and expense allowances, vowed “to clean house.”

The suspended employees, who were told of the action and sent home Tuesday, were identified only as cashiers in the department’s San Diego district office who handled money from rental properties, sales of books, pamphlets and road plans.

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Spokesman Gene Berthelsen said discrepancies in accounts handled by the two were discovered during a routine internal audit. He said the findings had “not yet” been shared with the San Diego County district attorney or the state attorney general but a referral to criminal authorities “is a possibility.”

Under state Civil Service rules, the two employees, whose annual salaries are in the $18,000-$23,000 range, have five days to ask for hearings to appeal their suspensions.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda), chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee and a frequent department critic, asked for an audit by the state auditor general of department overtime and travel expense reimbursement practices.

Last week, Katz asked for an investigation of a department deputy director in Los Angeles who has claimed out-of-town living stipends for more than three years and approved his own expense vouchers.

The department’s policies are also under scrutiny because of disclosures that some employees have collected overtime pay that boosted their annual salaries by $25,000 to $50,000.

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