Assembly Member Bloom Comments on Recent Controversy Surrounding Cal Fire Special Account

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation, today sent a letter to Ken Pimlott, Director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) requesting a thorough explanation of the recently discovered Wildland Fire Investigation Training and Equipment Fund. Bloom's letter is in response to reports over the weekend that the department may have mishandled $3.6 million in public funds.

"I am deeply concerned that a state department has potentially mismanaged taxpayer dollars," said Bloom. "I sincerely hope that the department will be able to provide a reasonable explanation and accounting within the next few weeks along with a plan for taking corrective action."

Recent reports indicate that Cal Fire created an account that deposited and spent public funds allegedly without proper authorization. This comes on the heels of the Department of Parks and Recreation illegally concealing park fees for more than a decade and a scathing audit of the Public Utilities Commission by the Department of Finance for their mismanagement of millions of dollars of public funds.

"Californians expect and deserve a government that is open, honest, and responsive. Nothing less is acceptable," said Bloom. "I look forward to the Department's response."

Below is the text of Assembly Member Bloom's letter to Cal Fire:

January 28, 2013

Mr. Ken Pimlott, Director
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
1416 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 94244-2460

Dear Mr. Pimlott:

I write to express my concerns over the recent reports in the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times newspapers over the alleged unauthorized existence of the Wildland Fire Investigation Training and Equipment Fund (WiFiter) created by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

As with many people, I was deeply disturbed by the revelations last year that the Department of Parks and Recreation hid more than $20 million as parks were slated for closure and many other important safety net programs were decimated due to budget shortfalls. Simply put, this incident was a breach of public trust and it is our collective job to rebuild that trust. To learn of another potential mismanagement of public funds can at best be described as disheartening particularly since the Department of Finance audited and discovered another $200 million in mismanaged funds last August from other agencies, yet Cal Fire did not report concerns about the WiFiter account.

While I am deeply concerned, I will not rush to judgment. However, as Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation which oversees your department, I will expect to have a full report from your department on the details of this fund along with a plan for taking appropriate corrective action.

Californians expect and deserve a government that is open, honest, and responsive. Nothing less is acceptable. I look forward to hearing from you in the coming weeks, if not sooner. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

RICHARD BLOOM
Assembly Member, 50th District

CONTACT: Sean MacNeil, 916-319-2050