News broke on Friday that while the California Department of Parks and Recreation "painted a dire picture of the system's health, soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations in what was thought to be a desperate scramble to keep facilities open," a trove of nearly $54 million remained untapped in two funds, report Chris Megerian and Patrick McGreevy. As a result, Ruth Coleman, director of the department since 2002, resigned, and her second in command, acting Chief Deputy Michael Harris, was fired.
At this time it is "unclear whether mismanagement or deliberate deceit led to the concealment of the funds," write Megerian and McGreevy. Finding an answer to this question will no doubt be the aim of an investigation lauched by the state attorney general's office.
"'It disgusts me,' said Myra Hilliard, who donated and helped raise money for the Pio Pico State Historic Park in Whittier. 'Is anybody honest about anything anymore? Here we are working so hard to keep the park open and they have all this money they aren't telling us about.'"
Secretary John Laird of the California Natural Resources Agency, which oversees the department, "said in a conference call with reporters that lawmakers will ultimately decide how to appropriate the surplus."