A high-ranking official at the California Department of Parks and Recreation carried out a secret vacation buyout program last year for himself and other headquarters staff, according to an internal audit, former employees and other documents obtained by The Sacramento Bee.
The buyouts cost more than $271,000, said Richard Stapler, a spokesman for the California Natural Resources Agency, which oversees the parks department. The money was spent even as the department was planning the unprecedented closure of 70 state parks due to budget cuts.
The program, in which employees were allowed to sell unused vacation time back to the state, was not approved by the California Department of Human Resources, as required by state law, said Lynelle Jolley, a spokeswoman for the human resources department. Due to the state's precarious budget condition, she said, no vacation buyouts have been approved by the agency since 2007. "They definitely did not authorize this," Stapler confirmed.
To avoid a paper trail, the buyout requests were submitted in some cases only on Post-It notes, not official forms, according to an internal parks department audit obtained by The Bee.