Money mess

Aug 10, 2012
The governor's budget writer reviewed hundreds of special funds and says the hidden stash of cash recently disclosed at the state Parks Department was an isolated incident. Her comments came at a legislative hearing, which gave lawmakers a good platform for quotes.
From Timm Herdt in the Ventura County Star: "There are no other hidden pots of money, based on our line-by-line review of everything," Finance Director Ana Matosantos testified at an oversight hearing conducted by an Assembly budget subcommittee."

"An investigation started by Gov. Jerry Brown last month found administrators in the Department of Parks and Recreation had for years been understating the accumulated balance in two special funds under their control in reports submitted to the state Finance Department. Separate reports submitted to the state controller's office were accurate."


"Although all the money was accounted for, the understated reports to the Finance Department meant the governor and Legislature were unaware of how much money was available to the parks department when they were crafting annual state budgets."


Speaking of money, Capitol TV coverage of a Senate hearing required by law to inform the public about the fiscal implications of several ballot propositions was abruptly cut off. Conspiracy theories abound.


From the Bee's Dan Walters: "As it opened, the committee's chairwoman, Democrat Lois Wolk, said she hoped that the testimony would help voters make reasoned decisions about the highly controversial measures."


"But only the few people in the hearing room and those technologically savvy enough to tune into an Internet audio feed heard Wolk's words."


"Just before the hearing was to be telecast on the California Channel, a public affairs channel carried on most cable systems, somebody from the Senate told Cal Channel to cut it off."

Two firms owed money by Stockon are questioning the legitimacy of that city's bankruptcy filing -- setting the stage for a court fight that could have implications far beyond the beleaguered town.


From the Bee's Dale Kasler: "The challenges, by National Public Finance Guarantee Corp. and Assured Guaranty Corp., make it increasingly likely that Stockton could be the scene of an epic legal showdown over whether pension promises made to public employees can be broken."


"The city's plan to cut costs "targeted its bondholders and left CalPERS and serious labor concessions off the negotiating table," Assured Guaranty said in papers filed today. Assured stands to lose $103 million in Stockton's bankruptcy."


"The city pays CalPERS around $29 million a year, according to the pension fund's records."

Rep. Laura Richardson, slapped by the House Ethics Committee for using official staffers for political purposes, has a difficult road ahead in her quest for reelection.

From the LAT's Jean Merl: "She had been burning through campaign strategists and congressional staffers for months. Debts were mounting. She had finished far behind rival Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) in the June primary, under new election rules that produced several November contests between members of the same party."


"Hahn had also won the endorsement of California'sDemocratic Party, which typically furnishes money, mail ads and volunteers for its chosen candidate. Its imprimatur sends a clear signal to voters in the largely Democratic district."


"Longtime Richardson watchers still won't count her out. They say she could fare much better in the fall, whenPresident Obama and statewide tax measures will be on the ballot to motivate a broader electorate than those who voted in the primary. They also cite her grasp of complex issues and knack for solving problems, ability to connect with constituents and capacity for hard work."


Getting back to money: One of the nation's major charities, a group that raises money for hospitalized veterans, is in the crosshairs of California's top cop, who claims the group misuses its donations.


From the AP's Julie Watson: "California's attorney general has sued a major veterans charity on allegations that its directors misused millions of dollars in private donations for hefty pensions and other perks, including more than $80,000 in golf memberships for its board members."


"Help Hospitalized Veterans of Winchester ranks among the nation's top 1 percent of charities for the amount of money it reports raising annually. Prosecutors say the group - whose primary mission is to provide homebound and hospitalized veterans with arts and crafts kits - has reported more than $436 million in revenue since 2001."


"At the same time, it has ranked for more than a decade at the bottom of lists by charity watchdog groups that rate nonprofit organizations based on their sound financial management and their abilities to use most of their donations toward their causes. CharityWatch says only about 35 percent of Help Hospitalized Veterans' funds go toward programs to aid veterans, when 65 percent is the industry standard."


And from our "Norwegian Wood" file comes a bear tale of a mama and her cubs who broke into a cabin and had a party by drinking more than 100 cans of beer. Then they broke up the place


"The beds and all kitchen appliances, stove, oven and cupboards and shelves were all smashed to pieces," Nilsen said, adding his mother and grandmother made the discovery when they arrived at the cabin in Jarfjord."


"The bears also consumed every morsel in the cabin, including marshmallows, honey and chocolate spread."


"Nilsen fears the bears' pay dirt could lead them to return to the area. "The mother has taken her young there, thus there is no guarantee that it won't happen to other cabins or to our hut again," he said.

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