Report I2001-1 Summary - April 2001

Investigations of Improper Activities by State Employees:

July 2000 Through January 2001

HIGHLIGHTS

State employees engaged in improper activities, including the following:

  • Participated in governmental decisions from which they were likely to benefit financially.

  • Misused state positions and resources for personal benefit.

  • Allowed fair officials and their spouses to compete in and receive prizes from fair events.

  • Accepted a gift from a vendor doing business with the State.

  • Created the appearance of conflicts of interest by circumventing controls over high-cost vehicle repairs and failing to ensure that the State paid only for necessary costs.
The Board of Pharmacy engaged in the following improper activities:
  • Handled consumer complaints inefficiently.

  • Failed to document hours worked to ensure that it fully compensated its employees.

RESULTS IN BRIEF

The Bureau of State Audits (bureau), in accordance with the California Whistleblower Protection Act (act) contained in the California Government Code, beginning with Section 8547, receives and investigates complaints of improper governmental activities. The act defines "improper governmental activity" as any activity by a state agency or employee during the performance of official duties that violates any state or federal law or regulation; that is economically wasteful; or that involves gross misconduct, incompetence, or inefficiency. To enable state employees and the public to report these activities, the bureau maintains the toll-free Whistleblower Hotline (hotline). The hotline number is (800) 952-5665.

If the bureau determines that there is reasonable evidence of improper governmental activity, it confidentially reports the details to the head of the employing agency or the appropriate appointing authority. The employer or appointing authority is required to notify the bureau of any corrective action taken, including disciplinary action, no later than 30 days after transmittal of the confidential investigative report and monthly thereafter until the corrective action concludes.

This report details the results of the seven investigations completed by the bureau and other state agencies between July 1, 2000, and January 31, 2001, that substantiated complaints. Following are examples of the substantiated improper activities:

CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

A California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) employee engaged in these improper activities:

  • Had a conflict of interest when he participated in making Caltrans decisions that benefited a company owned by his wife.

  • Misused his state position to influence Caltrans contractors and other private businesses to do business with his wife's company.

  • Used state resources to solicit work for his private consulting business. Caltrans did not require this employee, nor does it require others in similar classifications, to file annual statements of economic interest to assist it in identifying and preventing conflicts of interest.
16th DISTRICT AGRICULTURAL ASSOCIATION

The 16th District Agricultural Association, which sponsors, manages, and conducts the California Mid-State Fair (fair), failed to uphold and circumvented state rules when it performed these improper acts:

  • Allowed one fair board director and his spouse, who was a horse show official, to compete in horse show events.

  • Allowed another director's spouse to compete in judged events.

  • Paid the same two directors and their spouses more than $9,800 in prize money from 1995 through 1999.
We also found that both directors violated conflict of interest laws when they participated in a vote to adopt a resolution that enabled directors, fair management, and their spouses to continue to receive prize money.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

Employees of the Department of Corrections' Southern Transportation Unit (STU) engaged in these improper activities:

  • One employee improperly received a gift from a business whose owners also own an automotive repair shop that the STU uses to repair its vehicles.

  • This same employee and three others created an appearance of conflicts of interest by participating in decisions to give the automotive repair shop a disproportionate share of the STU's business while having the same business repair their personal vehicles.

  • The STU employees further created an appearance of conflicts of interest by circumventing controls over high-cost repairs by the automotive repair shop and by not ensuring that the STU paid the vendor only for necessary costs.
BOARD OF PHARMACY

The Board of Pharmacy engaged in these improper governmental activities:

  • Allowed itself too much time to resolve consumer complaints and then failed to meet even the time frames it set for itself.

  • Failed to maintain adequate records to ensure that it compensated its employees for all the time they worked.
DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS

A Department of Consumer Affairs investigator used his state position to access a law enforcement information system and obtain confidential information about a person who had been involved in a car accident with the investigator's spouse.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES

A Department of Health Services employee engaged in these improper governmental activities:

  • Submitted claims for $310 in mileage reimbursement even though she drove a state vehicle.

  • Submitted claims for $112 for meals and incidental expenses even though she was not entitled to reimbursement.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

An employee used a state dump truck to deliver two loads of gravel to a private residence during regular state hours.

This report also summarizes actions taken by state entities as a result of investigations presented here or reported previously by the bureau.

Appendix A contains statistics on the complaints received by the bureau between July 1, 2000, and January 31, 2001, and summarizes our actions on those and other complaints pending as of June 30, 2000. It also provides information on the cost of improper activities substantiated since 1993 and the corrective actions taken as a result of our investigations.

Appendix B details the laws, regulations, and policies that govern the improper activities discussed in this report.

Appendix C provides information on actual or suspected acts of fraud, theft, or other irregularities identified by other state entities. Section 20060 of the State Administrative Manual requires state agencies to notify the bureau and the Department of Finance of actual or suspected acts. It is our intention to inform the public of the State's awareness of such activities and to publicize the fact that agencies are taking action against wrongdoers and working to prevent improper activities.

See the Index for an alphabetical listing of all agencies addressed in this report.


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