A bribery scam executed by two California state workers cost the Franchise Tax Board and the secretary of state's office hundreds of thousands of dollars, one of nine instances of employee fraud, abuse or poor management exposed by whistle-blowers in a new state report.
Employees at the Los Angeles field offices of both agencies received thousands of dollars of payments between 2006 and 2008 from a private courier who in turn received hundreds of official letters for his clients without paying document fees of $15 to $20 per letter.
Both state employees and the courier were convicted of bribery in Los Angeles Superior Court and were ordered to pay restitution totaling $227,000. The state employees were both fired. All three were sentenced to several hundred hours of community service and probation.
By law, the auditor does not name individuals or give identifying details in its reports, even when the subjects have been convicted of a crime. Attempts to reach the L.A. County deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case were unsuccessful.
The Franchise Tax Board and the Employment Development Department said that they have instituted new procedures to keep employees from issuing letters without processing document fees.
Other instances of improper state activities in the auditor's annual whistle-blower report include:
-- A former Employment Development Department accounting employee and two accomplices who bilked the unemployment insurance system of nearly $93,000 in illicit payments from 2008 to 2010. The EDD worker and one accomplice were sentenced to federal prison. The other accomplice received a three-year probation sentence.
-- A University of California president's office official who received $6,100 for travel, including a five-day trip to England, after the auditor had highlighted more than $150,000 in wasteful reimbursements to the same employee when he worked for the California State University chancellor's office.
-- A California Department of Education employee who posted approximately 4,900 comments during work hours on The Bee's website between December 2010 and December 2011.
Although the employee also used state resources and time for his own side business, his supervisors failed to formally discipline him or limit his computer use -- even after auditors came calling.
As education officials were deciding how to act on information from the audit, the employee quit, department spokesman Paul Hefner said in a Tuesday press release.
-- A Department of Fish and Game supervisor inappropriately required that a farmer leasing state land pay more than $53,000 to third-party vendors for department expenses instead of making agreed-upon land improvements. The supervisor also took $5,000 in Home Depot gift cards from the farmer, but couldn't prove they were used for state purposes.
-- The California State Athletic Commission overpaid a total of $118,650 to 18 employees because it incorrectly paid them overtime instead of an hourly straight-time rate over a two-year span.
-- A manager with California Correctional Health Care Services improperly paid $55,000 in travel benefits to 23 employees, including commuting costs and expenses incurred near their homes and workplace.
Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043. ___