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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Calif. Audit Finds Waste & Forgery at State Agencies

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - California state agencies combined to "waste" over $300,000 in taxpayer dollars through employees skipping work and management failing to attribute leave time, the state auditor said Thursday.

The investigation found the largest abuse of state funding occurred at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County, where a host of psychiatrists played hooky to the tune of $296,000. According to the audit, over a one-year period four psychiatrists together worked 2,254 fewer hours than necessary to average the mandated 40 hours per week - but were still paid their full salary.

"Although supervisors and executive management were generally aware of psychiatrists' failure to work a weekly average of 40 hours, they did not act to resolve the situation," the audit states.

State Auditor Elaine Howle caught the state employees lying in interviews about their work habits and the auditors exposed them further by studying the hospital's alarm system and security gate data to track their movements.

The state can't recover the misappropriated funds because the psychiatrists were salaried employees. At the time of the audit, two of the psychiatrists had salaries of $274,900.

Howle's team found another state psychiatrist failed to disclose payments he received from the pharmaceutical industry, violating the California Political Reform Act. The employee received at least $29,000 from a pharmaceutical company while he was the medical director at a state facility.

The official, Howle says, was paid for giving speeches and the state agency neglected to give him the proper tax forms to disclose his side income. According to the audit, "he appeared surprised" and unclear about his tax obligation despite filing similar forms in years prior.

"He also said he did not believe he needed to disclose his financial interests since he did not consider there to be any potential conflict of interest between his state employment and the work he did for the pharmaceutical company," the audit states.

California, with over 800,000 non-education public employees, has a history of mismanaging its massive workforce. Last week, the State Controller's Office said 20,000 employees were overpaid in January due to the regulator's failure to account for higher medical insurance premiums and that the employees will be forced to repay the extra cash.

Aside from psychiatrists skipping out on work, the audit found a state agency undercharged leave balances for 12 of its employees. The Porterville Developmental Center only applied eight hours of leave for employees who actually work nine or ten-hour work days.

The missed deductions total more than $25,000 and the employees can use the extra hours toward future vacations or cash payments once they leave the state.

The audit, "Investigation of Improper Activities by State Agencies and Employees," focused on 10 allegations at several state agencies. The auditor also referred other allegations to state agencies "best suited" to investigate on her behalf.

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