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The case of the Caltrans engineer's illicit remodel

Caught red-handed on personal job site, state worker let off with a warning.

The end of the year is approaching, time again for the California state auditor's report of crimes and malfeasance by state employees, some of which were attributed to a San Diego-based California Department of Transportation engineer.

"Through our investigations, we found theft of state funds, waste of public resources, improper headquarters designations and improper travel expenses, and incompatible activities," says auditor Elaine Howell's December 23 introduction to her latest official tally of worker horrors.

"In one case, we determined that a manager at the State Water Resources Control Board embezzled more than $3,500 in state funds that she received when she recycled surplus state property on behalf of the Water Board.

"In addition, the California Military Department failed to keep an accurate inventory of state property of its Camp Roberts training facility, which led to a loss of inventory valued at $33,400."

In San Diego's case, the Caltrans motto "Give 'em a brake" took on a new meaning.

"Caltrans found that between June 2011 and December 2011, the transportation engineer used a passenger vehicle assigned to him and a pickup truck assigned to another engineer to visit a rental property that he owned and was trying to renovate," the report says.

"According to one witness, the transportation engineer used these vehicles to visit the property on at least 18 occasions, with several of the occasions taking place during the transportation engineer’s regular work hours. During the visits, the transportation engineer transported paint and other construction materials to his rental property."

State investigators swung into action.

"Caltrans obtained photographs of the transportation engineer and the state pickup truck being present at the rental property on two separate occasions in December 2011.

“The photographs were digitally imprinted with a date stamp that indicated the transportation engineer was present at the property during his regular work hours.

"When shown the photographs, the transportation engineer denied driving the truck to the rental property, but he was unable to provide any explanation for how he or the truck arrived at the property or why the state truck was parked there."

And that wasn't all.

"The investigation also found that between January and March 2012, the transportation engineer continued using the state passenger vehicle that had been assigned to him to visit job sites even though he was assigned to work exclusively at the office where he was headquartered and therefore had no need to use the vehicle for state business.

“State records indicate that during this period, the transportation engineer used his state vehicle on 12 days to travel 747 miles and refueled the vehicle using a state credit card."

Despite being caught red-handed on his personal remodeling job, the unidentified engineer was let off with a bit of cautionary advice, the report says.

CalTrans logo

"At the conclusion of the investigation, Caltrans issued a letter of warning to the transportation engineer in September 2013 for his personal use of the state vehicles and misuse of state time.

"Additionally, the district director implemented a corrective action plan that requires keys to all Caltrans vehicles be secured in a locked area and requires supervisory approval to use a state vehicle."

Caltrans San Diego headquarters

But there still remained the matter of anteing up for the gas, which as of November of this year the state had yet to be paid for.

"Caltrans determined that the transportation engineer misused his vehicle by driving at least 747 miles when he had no business reason for doing so," notes the report.

"Using the State’s mileage reimbursement rate to calculate the cost of this misuse of the vehicle, which at the time was $0.555 per mile, the transportation engineer owes the State a repayment of $415 for his misuse of the vehicle.

"We recommend that Caltrans seek reimbursement from the engineer in the amount of $415 to pay for his misuse of the vehicle," says the audit.

"Caltrans reported in November 2014 that it intends to pursue reimbursement of $415 from the transportation engineer for his misuse of the state vehicle."

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The end of the year is approaching, time again for the California state auditor's report of crimes and malfeasance by state employees, some of which were attributed to a San Diego-based California Department of Transportation engineer.

"Through our investigations, we found theft of state funds, waste of public resources, improper headquarters designations and improper travel expenses, and incompatible activities," says auditor Elaine Howell's December 23 introduction to her latest official tally of worker horrors.

"In one case, we determined that a manager at the State Water Resources Control Board embezzled more than $3,500 in state funds that she received when she recycled surplus state property on behalf of the Water Board.

"In addition, the California Military Department failed to keep an accurate inventory of state property of its Camp Roberts training facility, which led to a loss of inventory valued at $33,400."

In San Diego's case, the Caltrans motto "Give 'em a brake" took on a new meaning.

"Caltrans found that between June 2011 and December 2011, the transportation engineer used a passenger vehicle assigned to him and a pickup truck assigned to another engineer to visit a rental property that he owned and was trying to renovate," the report says.

"According to one witness, the transportation engineer used these vehicles to visit the property on at least 18 occasions, with several of the occasions taking place during the transportation engineer’s regular work hours. During the visits, the transportation engineer transported paint and other construction materials to his rental property."

State investigators swung into action.

"Caltrans obtained photographs of the transportation engineer and the state pickup truck being present at the rental property on two separate occasions in December 2011.

“The photographs were digitally imprinted with a date stamp that indicated the transportation engineer was present at the property during his regular work hours.

"When shown the photographs, the transportation engineer denied driving the truck to the rental property, but he was unable to provide any explanation for how he or the truck arrived at the property or why the state truck was parked there."

And that wasn't all.

"The investigation also found that between January and March 2012, the transportation engineer continued using the state passenger vehicle that had been assigned to him to visit job sites even though he was assigned to work exclusively at the office where he was headquartered and therefore had no need to use the vehicle for state business.

“State records indicate that during this period, the transportation engineer used his state vehicle on 12 days to travel 747 miles and refueled the vehicle using a state credit card."

Despite being caught red-handed on his personal remodeling job, the unidentified engineer was let off with a bit of cautionary advice, the report says.

CalTrans logo

"At the conclusion of the investigation, Caltrans issued a letter of warning to the transportation engineer in September 2013 for his personal use of the state vehicles and misuse of state time.

"Additionally, the district director implemented a corrective action plan that requires keys to all Caltrans vehicles be secured in a locked area and requires supervisory approval to use a state vehicle."

Caltrans San Diego headquarters

But there still remained the matter of anteing up for the gas, which as of November of this year the state had yet to be paid for.

"Caltrans determined that the transportation engineer misused his vehicle by driving at least 747 miles when he had no business reason for doing so," notes the report.

"Using the State’s mileage reimbursement rate to calculate the cost of this misuse of the vehicle, which at the time was $0.555 per mile, the transportation engineer owes the State a repayment of $415 for his misuse of the vehicle.

"We recommend that Caltrans seek reimbursement from the engineer in the amount of $415 to pay for his misuse of the vehicle," says the audit.

"Caltrans reported in November 2014 that it intends to pursue reimbursement of $415 from the transportation engineer for his misuse of the state vehicle."

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7

"The investigation also found that between January and March 2012, the transportation engineer continued using the state passenger vehicle that had been assigned to him to visit job sites even though he was assigned to work exclusively at the office where he was headquartered and therefore had no need to use the vehicle for state business." What? If he was assigned to work exclusively at the office and didn't need a vehicle for state business, why in the HELL did he have a vehicle?

Dec. 23, 2014

The San Diego case is a plain and simple theft. Why isn't, or wasn't this case referred to a law enforcement agency for investigation and prosecution?

Dec. 23, 2014

I worked at the headquarters for the California State Parks Dept and saw firsthand how this kind of thing is very common in state government. If this guy was high enough on the management scale he probably would had been promoted following his misappropriation of state property ("Oh, you mean theft?")

Dec. 23, 2014

The only thing worse than these guys is the military. The theft that goes on in there is incredible. That, and of course the military contractors, who make these guys look like rank amateurs. The military and its contractors rip off more in a day than these public sector dudes do all year. Theft seems to be ingrained in the American way of doing business.

Dec. 23, 2014

If I stole from my company I would be fired and would never work in finance again. No wonder the state is broke despite our high taxes.

Dec. 27, 2014

We have a "California Military Department"? What do they do? How many millions does that cost us? I remember when Roger Hedgecock, live on the air, shot gunned (surprise!) a couple of government workers who were gassing up gov. cars at the most expensive gas stations (near the airport). Of course that's back when we were outraged at $1.60/gal gas.

Jan. 4, 2015

Ken Harrison Yes there actually is a "California Military Department". I looked this up for you: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/2013-14/StateAgencyBudgets/8000/8940/department.html

Jan. 4, 2015

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