California Republicans, a disappearing species facing myriad political woes, now have another problem. Their official party machinery -- the paid staff, the main office -- is fast running out of money. One irony here: The Reeps have always considered themselves good at handling money.
From the Chronicle's Carla Marinucci: "The crisis emerged after state party officials, facing an $850,000 shortfall in late June, fell behind in rent, phone bills, payments to Internet vendors and printers, and worried they would have to cut employees' health care insurance payments, according to several Republican sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity."
"Since then, party officials have reportedly negotiated down the debt, but campaign finance reports to be released Tuesday are expected to show the California GOP to be at least $450,000 in the red, multiple sources said."
"After the state party's board of directors on July 10 approved a plan to close the office, sources said party leaders have made frantic efforts to maintain a Sacramento presence - trying to negotiate a downsized office with four staff members paid by state legislative leaders."
The ripples spread from the disclosure that state officials at the Parks Department sat on a $54 million stash of cash even as parks faced closure from a lack of funds. For one thing, the disputes highlights the fight over off-roading on public land.
From the LAT's Chris Megerian and Anthony York: "The culture clash has pitted conservationists against drivers of dirt bikes and dune buggies, who have tangled over how to spend more than $100 million set aside to buy and manage land for off-road vehicles. That fund is where state accountants found more than half of a $54-million hidden surplus, the revelation that sparked the ongoing scandal."
"Why the money went unnoticed for at least 12 years and whether it was intentionally hidden remains under investigation. But a former chair of the state commission that oversees off-road vehicle parks and advises how the money is spent said he wasn't surprised to find the fund playing a starring role in yet another controversy."
"Parks has a culture of preservation as opposed to recreation," said Eric Lueder, who was removed from the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission by a state Senate committee earlier this month. "They don't want people using the land unless they're hiking or bird watching."
Some people who donated money to keep the parks system going say they now want their money back.
From the Mercury News Paul Rogers: "Saying they feel betrayed by the discovery of $54 million hidden in two state parks accounts, a growing number of groups that donated money to keep California state parks from closing this year now say they want a refund -- or at least a binding promise from lawmakers to spend the extra money on parks."
"They sort of came to us under false pretenses. They cried wolf, and we responded," said Reed Holderman, executive director of the Sempervirens Fund, a nonprofit conservation group in Los Altos. "An elegant solution would be for them to refund the nonprofits, and put whatever is left into parks."
"Holderman's group announced in March that it would donate $250,000 in private donations to the state parks department to keep Castle Rock State Park off the closure list. Known for its sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, Castle Rock is located along the Santa Cruz-Santa Clara County line."
The pot of funds at Parks and Rec isn't the only cache raising eyebrows. Numerous other so-called "special funds" -- funds that contain money targeting specific purposes -- are drawing attention.
From the Mercury News' Mike Rosenberg: "A week after uncovering a hidden-funds scandal at the state parks department, finance officials are now trying to piece together why the balance sheets for similar "special funds" are off by $2.3 billion -- money that appeared to be right under their noses amid California's financial meltdown."
"An analysis by this newspaper of California's little-known 500-plus special funds -- like the ones that included $54 million in parks money shielded from the Department of Finance -- shows tens of millions of dollars in discrepancies in numerous accounts."
"The fund that gives restitution to violent crime victims was off by $29 million. The one that provides kids low-cost health insurance was $30 million out of balance. The fund that rewards people for recycling bottles and cans was $113 million off. "Where are these dollars?" asked state Senate budget chair Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, saying it was a "big problem" that the special funds "clearly have not been getting enough attention."
"The newspaper's review found at least 17 accounts that appeared to have significantly more reserve cash than what individual departments reported to the finance department, though it's unclear why."
Orange County's top government executive resigned amid the fallout from a county official who has been charged with multiple felonies for sexual harrassment.
From the LAT's Christine Mai-Duc and Nicole Santa Cruz: 'After an hours-long closed session, Supervisor John Moorlach emerged to announce Chief Executive Tom Mauk's resignation, effective Aug. 3. It's the latest in a series of departures from county government since Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante was charged with 12 felonies and four misdemeanors in connection with the alleged battery and sexual assault of seven of his subordinates."
"The charges have raised serious questions about how the county handles internal investigations. In the Bustamante case, one investigation was assigned to a subordinate staff member, and another was quietly filed away for months. The findings were turned over to prosecutors with the Orange County district attorney's office in March, a full year after the first allegations about Bustamante's behavior surfaced."
"Earlier Thursday, Bustamante appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to six felony counts of false imprisonment, three felony counts of assault with intent to commit a sexual offense, and single counts of stalking, attempted sexual battery by restraint and grand theft for misusing public funds. He also faces misdemeanor charges of sexual battery, assault and battery."
And from our "Water Wars" file comes word that a German submarine may have been discovered in a river miles from the ocean -- a World War II-era U-Boat that was on the prowl when it sank sometime before 1945.
"Brian Corbin says it might sound far-fetched but he’s 100 per cent sure there is a German U-boat lying on the bottom of Labrador’s Churchill River more than 200 kilometres from the coast."
"Rumours of a World War II German submarine at the bottom of the river have been around for years, but a grainy sonar image seems to show the outline of the type of sub that terrorized the North Atlantic during World War II."
"Corbin, 50, a diver from Happy Valley Goose Bay in Labrador, was among several people using side scan sonar technology searching the river bottom for three men lost over Muskrat Falls in 2010 but it was only three weeks ago they made what they believe to be an historic discovery."
“Our focus was finding bodies . . . but low and behold we found something that sort of resembles a submarine,” Corbin told the Star Thursday."