Audit finds abuse of tax dollars by California government employees

California Capitol building in Sacramento. (FILE)

A California state audit found some state employees are misusing state time, wasting tax dollars and wrongfully using state property.

State Auditor Elaine Howle released the ‘Investigations of improper activities by state agencies and employees’ Tuesday as the result of the California Whistleblower Protection Act. Over the past fiscal year, the state auditor’s office has received roughly 1,330 tips about misspent money or government waste.

The report details results of seven investigations out of the 1,480 cases that were opened or worked on during the year. In some cases, inaccurate timecards and attendance were noted including four different employees at state agencies who took extended breaks, left work early or even slept on the job. The audit details the total cost to taxpayers is about $160,000.

Digging deeper into the audit shows two facilities operations employees at California State University, Fresno left campus early or took extended breaks dozens of times over a five year period. In total, 5,100 hours of work cost the state $111,000 for work never completed. Investigators also noted the employees lied by trying to conceal their attendance abuse.

Another state employee misused state time by leaving Kern Valley State Prison nearly an hour early for roughly two years for a total of 312 hours of work and costing taxpayers $9,000.

The audit also shows a data operator at the Department of Motor Vehicles slept at her desk during work time for nearly four years, accounting for 2,200 wastefully paid hours and costing the State $40,000.

In another case, investigators found wasteful spending when a licensed vocational nurse was reassigned by her friend from her nursing job to do work normally done by an office technician. Her pay remained the same, despite that position typically paying a lower salary. It resulted in $10,500 in unnecessary payments. Additionally, $18,700 was misspent in overtime and paid to other nurses to cover the licensed vocational nurse’s original job.

Money was also found to be misspent when a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection assistant chief violated a rental agreement. He’s accused of using his staff to build a structure complete with plumbing, electrical and sewer connections in the backyard of state property that he was renting.

Finally, a manager at California State University, Dominguez Hills had an employee buy an electric vehicle quick charger for $7,000 before checking to see if it was compatible with the energy resource plan for the campus. As a result, the charger hasn’t been used in five years, the warranty has lapsed and replacement parts are no longer manufactured. The charger may never been installed, the audit explained.

The audit summary said the report is just seven examples of investigations into wasteful spending, however, the State Auditor also looked into reports of bad-faith hires, improper promotions and nepotism by management.