Administration accused of misusing funds

The Associated Press
Friday March 02, 2001



SACRAMENTO — The Davis administration is misusing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars slated for jobs that are never filled, the Senate’s Republican leader said Thursday. 

Sen. James Brulte produced an internal e-mail from a budget manager at the Department of Transportation that he said illustrates the problem. 

The November e-mail, which Brulte provided to reporters Thursday, states that Caltrans abolishes vacant positions before the state Controller’s Office reviews vacancies every six months. Then it recreates the post later in the year, allowing the department to continue to receive the funding. 

“We abolish positions all of the time and we never lose the resources with it,” the e-mail states. 

Brulte said his office has learned that many, if not all, state departments are directing dollars budgeted for vacant posts to such uses as purchasing and travel. 

He said 30,000 government posts are unfilled statewide. 

“It goes into a bureacratic slush fund that the Legislature has no oversight responsibility on,” Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga, said. 

Caltrans spokesman Dennis Trujillo denied that his agency misuses its personnel funds. 

“All personnel service dollars are used for personnel service purposes. All positions, either eliminated or restored, are done through the state Controller’s Office and we have been and will continue to work with the Department of Finance to ensure the proper controls are in place,” Trujillo said. 

However, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis’ Department of Finance has launched an investigation into the Caltrans e-mail and Brulte’s accusations. 

“If this department is in fact appropriating money for salaries and using it for other things, then we are concerned about that and we want to get to the bottom of it,” said Finance spokesman Sandy Harrison. 

The Finance Department has eliminated 6,600 vacant positions statewide because of similar concerns over the past two years, Harrison said. 

Sen. Dick Ackerman, R-Fullerton, vice-chairman of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, said he will propose legislation next month to return to the state’s general fund $380 million in this year’s budget for department positions that have not been filled. 

Brulte first raised the issue in 1999, when he questioned $250 million budgeted for salaries but spent for other purposes. 

Despite legislation passed and signed by Davis last year to try to remedy the problem, Brulte said Thursday the Caltrans e-mail illustrates that the “shell-game” continues. 

“We believe that it’s time to put an end to this shell game and the phantom employees that these departments insist on having,” Brulte said. 


On The Net: 

Brulte’s press release can be found at: