By Matt Weiser and Kevin Yamamura
Published: Saturday, Jul. 21, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
California state parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned and her second-in-command was fired Friday after officials discovered the department has been sitting on “hidden assets” totalling nearly $54 million.
The money accumulated over 12 years in two special funds the department uses to collect revenue and pay for operations: $20.4 million in the Parks and Recreation Fund, and $33.5 million in the Off Highway Vehicle Trust Fund.
The money accumulated, state officials said, because the parks department had a pattern of underreporting the actual size of the funds in its regular dealings with the state Department of Finance.
Why and how this occurred remains a mystery and will be the subject of investigations launched Friday by the Department of Finance and the state attorney general’s office, said John Laird, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, which oversees the state Department of Parks and Recreation and who announced the discovery of the funds on Friday.
Officials said they don’t yet know whether any laws were broken or if additional employees will be disciplined.
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