SAN JOSE (KCBS)— Bay Area organizations are demanding that money be returned to them that was raised in order to keep state parks open a week after a hidden-funds scandal at the State Parks Department was uncovered.
The department scandal in which they’ve been sitting on $54 million in unspent revenue has lead to the director’s resignation as well as the deputy director’s dismissal. Finance officials are now trying to piece together why the balance sheets for similar “special funds” are off by $2.3 billion. The money was apparently right under their noses amid California’s financial meltdown.
The Henry Coe Park Preservation Fund is the latest non-profit organization asking for their money back. The preservation fund had donated $279,000 in order to keep Henry Coe State Park open in San Jose.
The money was raised back in May when dozens of state parks were slated for closure. The group also entered into a three-year agreement to help fund operations at Henry Coe.
KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said this is just one of many groups frustrated by the new revelations.
“When you go in the private sector asking them to write a hundred dollar, million dollar check, asking literally for kids to do versions of lemonade stands to raise 20 dollars over a weekend to save their cherished neighborhood park somewhere in the state and then you find out you’re sitting on tens of millions of dollars, that breeds a lot of distrust,” said Newsom.
Henry Coe State Park is the largest in Northern California at 87,000 acres.
Meanwhile in Sonoma County, Bike Monkey, a non-profit bicycling organization also feels duped and wants the money they raised back in efforts to save Annadel State Park in Sonoma County.
Bike Monkey helped raise over $55,000 to keep Annadel open when it made the list of parks that would close because of California’s budget shortfall. They’re asking for more than $40,000 back.
“We are seeking to have those monies returned to us,” said Greg Fisher from Bike Monkey, adding that his group’s reputation and credibility have been damaged by the scandal.
Fisher said his group will give all the money to the Sonoma County Regional Parks instead, which is taking control of Annadel, while efforts to put sales tax hikes on local ballots to raise money for the parks appear to be dead in the water.
The State Parks Department has not responded to requests for comment.
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