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Audit Cites Improper Use of State Car by Fish and Game Worker

The California Department of Fish and Game has been criticized by the state Auditor's office for letting an employee use a state car to commute between her home in San Diego and Fish and Game's Los Alamitos office, costing taxpayers $8,282, plus $595 in lodging and meal expenses.

"On July 1, 2008, the employee transferred her headquarters from the San Diego office to the Los Alamitos office," according to the August 25 audit report, entitled "Investigations of Improper Activities by State Agencies and Employees".

"When the employee transferred her headquarters, her manager at the Los Alamitos office obtained a state vehicle for the employee to use and directed her to use the vehicle to commute between her home and the two offices where she worked."

"In December 2008 Fish and Game filled the vacancy in the San Diego office that was created by the employee transferring to Los Alamitos, thus eliminating the need for the employee to report to the San Diego office."

"Nonetheless, the employee continued to use the state vehicle to commute between her home and the Los Alamitos office.

"The employee logged nearly 20,000 miles before she stopped using the state vehicle for her commute in March 2009."

"When we asked the manager about obtaining a state vehicle for the employee to use for her commute to work, the manager stated that he obtained the state vehicle for the employee because she was working at two locations—the Los Alamitos office and the San Diego office."

"However, the mere fact that the employee was working at two offices on different days did not justify giving her a state car to commute to these two offices."

"We also asked the manager about the employee’s continued use of a state vehicle to commute between her home and Los Alamitos for an additional three months after she stopped working at the San Diego office."

"To this the manager replied that failing to require the employee to surrender the vehicle once she no longer was assisting the San Diego office was an oversight on his part."

"In addition to commuting in a state vehicle at the State’s expense, the employee submitted travel expense claims seeking reimbursement for $595 in lodging and meal expenses incurred within two miles of her headquarters location in Los Alamitos."

"When asked about the reimbursements during the investigation, the employee asserted that all of the expenses she claimed were incurred as a direct result of conducting state business."

"The manager, however, acknowledged that these expenses should not have been reimbursed and stated that approving reimbursement for the expenses was an oversight on his part."

According to the audit document, Fish and Game reported in June that it would "prepare a corrective counseling memorandum for the manager detailing the improper direction he provided to the employee," and "would provide him and other managers in the region with training detailing the proper rules and procedures for travel reimbursements and use."

"In response to our recommendation that it provide training to the employee regarding state rules about the payment of employee travel expenses, Fish and Game reported that it would provide training to all senior staff in the manager’s region.

"However, Fish and Game did not indicate that it intended to provide any training to the employee.

"Finally, in response to our recommendations that it seek recovery from the employee and the manager for the improper travel reimbursements we identified, Fish and Game reported that it would follow the appropriate process to collect the improper reimbursements made to the employee and that it would follow guidelines established in state regulations and allow the manager to respond to our findings."

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The California Department of Fish and Game has been criticized by the state Auditor's office for letting an employee use a state car to commute between her home in San Diego and Fish and Game's Los Alamitos office, costing taxpayers $8,282, plus $595 in lodging and meal expenses.

"On July 1, 2008, the employee transferred her headquarters from the San Diego office to the Los Alamitos office," according to the August 25 audit report, entitled "Investigations of Improper Activities by State Agencies and Employees".

"When the employee transferred her headquarters, her manager at the Los Alamitos office obtained a state vehicle for the employee to use and directed her to use the vehicle to commute between her home and the two offices where she worked."

"In December 2008 Fish and Game filled the vacancy in the San Diego office that was created by the employee transferring to Los Alamitos, thus eliminating the need for the employee to report to the San Diego office."

"Nonetheless, the employee continued to use the state vehicle to commute between her home and the Los Alamitos office.

"The employee logged nearly 20,000 miles before she stopped using the state vehicle for her commute in March 2009."

"When we asked the manager about obtaining a state vehicle for the employee to use for her commute to work, the manager stated that he obtained the state vehicle for the employee because she was working at two locations—the Los Alamitos office and the San Diego office."

"However, the mere fact that the employee was working at two offices on different days did not justify giving her a state car to commute to these two offices."

"We also asked the manager about the employee’s continued use of a state vehicle to commute between her home and Los Alamitos for an additional three months after she stopped working at the San Diego office."

"To this the manager replied that failing to require the employee to surrender the vehicle once she no longer was assisting the San Diego office was an oversight on his part."

"In addition to commuting in a state vehicle at the State’s expense, the employee submitted travel expense claims seeking reimbursement for $595 in lodging and meal expenses incurred within two miles of her headquarters location in Los Alamitos."

"When asked about the reimbursements during the investigation, the employee asserted that all of the expenses she claimed were incurred as a direct result of conducting state business."

"The manager, however, acknowledged that these expenses should not have been reimbursed and stated that approving reimbursement for the expenses was an oversight on his part."

According to the audit document, Fish and Game reported in June that it would "prepare a corrective counseling memorandum for the manager detailing the improper direction he provided to the employee," and "would provide him and other managers in the region with training detailing the proper rules and procedures for travel reimbursements and use."

"In response to our recommendation that it provide training to the employee regarding state rules about the payment of employee travel expenses, Fish and Game reported that it would provide training to all senior staff in the manager’s region.

"However, Fish and Game did not indicate that it intended to provide any training to the employee.

"Finally, in response to our recommendations that it seek recovery from the employee and the manager for the improper travel reimbursements we identified, Fish and Game reported that it would follow the appropriate process to collect the improper reimbursements made to the employee and that it would follow guidelines established in state regulations and allow the manager to respond to our findings."

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