by Lou Binninger
Who do you believe in government? Officials tout how transparent they are and then it takes months to answer a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and years to investigate wrongdoing. Getting the facts is like extracting an impacted wisdom tooth.
Our local assemblyman and senator in Sacramento said there were ample funds in the budget to upgrade our highways and bridges. However, our Yuba County officials repeated the lies from the legislature saying we needed more taxes for roads, so the gas tax repeal(Prop 6) lost and here we are, the highest gas prices in the nation while legislators, the highest paid nationally, get a raise.
The fraud and waste are epidemic. How about the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) official John Beale not showing-up for work for years, ordered to repay nearly $900,000 in salary and benefits and do 32 months in prison? A Caltrans employee got a job in Sacramento, but never moved there. Instead, she flew to work and had taxpayers pick-up her tab.
According to the state auditor, this state employee treated herself to the travel budget, charging thousands of dollars in airfare. She also secured rental cars, charged the state for mileage during her time in Sacramento, and was reimbursed for meals and incidentals.
The state audit shows Caltrans approved the receipts she submitted totaling more than $40,000 for her commute to work from February 2016 to March 2018.
A longtime administrator in the Valley State Prison (VSP) used his state-issued computer during work hours to access thousands of YouTube videos (from Sept. 2017 through June 2018 2,256 videos) unrelated to his work.
It’s unclear exactly how much time the administrator spent viewing videos, but the allegation stated, “He watched YouTube videos ‘every day, all day long, five days per week.'” On one particular day, investigators found he accessed 55 videos that did not appear related to his duties. Most of the videos were about recreational vehicles, crimes, and political or religious commentary. He now is retired with no consequences.
In 2015, a state audit found a Caltrans engineer golfing instead of working on 55 of his scheduled work days. In 2016, another state audit found Caltrans reckless spending protocols were vulnerable to fraud along with identifying 3,500 excess workers.
Now, auditors found California State University (CSU) system hiding $1.5 billion in discretionary reserves while raising tuition and lobbying for more funding according to a report from state Auditor Elaine Howle.
“CSU put the money, which primarily came from student tuition, in outside accounts rather than in the state Treasury,” according to Sacramento Bee’s Sawsan Morrar.
“At the same time, the CSU Board of Trustees increased pay for the top administrators, including those in the Chancellor’s Office and CSU president,” said union legislative director David Balla-Hawkins.
In addition, Howle’s audit “criticized CSU for building costly parking facilities at four of its 23 campuses: Sacramento, San Diego, Fullerton and Channel Islands. CSU raised student parking permit fees as high as $236 per semester to pay for the new structures, but added no new parking capacity.”
Being a criminal is contagious in California. In 2017, Auditor Howle’s office exposed the University of California Chancellor’s Office for hiding a $175 million slush fund from public view while also increasing tuition.
In 2012, California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman was forced to step down when it became public that the Parks Department was shielding $54 million in “hidden assets” from the state Department of Finance.
You remember those days when money was so tight that the state only funded “essential services.” State parks had to close due to ‘no funding.’ That was the hold-people- hostage strategy by closing the parks while stashing money already taken. These deep state people are jerks.
The auditor said there were more than 800 whistleblower claims in 6 months in 2018. And, that’s only the courageous ones trying to do the right thing while being considered a snitch.
Locally, watch for an August 2019 decision on the legality of the Yuba County’s Measure K sales tax increase. Judge Berrier will support the tax and it will be appealed. There will be a 2020 ballot measure to gut Proposition 13 along with other tax increases. Also, expect Yuba Water Agency directors to continue increasing their pay. They have more money than they can count.
It’s all a great gig if you can tap into the Deep State.