SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A number of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation managers used state vehicles to travel to and from work, costing the state and taxpayers more than $80,000. Now, the agency is being asked to look into mileage logs for all managers and supervisors and work to get the money back from the employees who broke the rules.
The information came out in the State Auditor Whistleblower report. It reviewed more than 800 cases, including 67 cases involving misuse of state funds from July 1, 2018-December 31, 2018.
Of those 67 cases, the agency conducted preliminary investigative work on 24 of them. Of those, investigators obtained sufficient evidence in 10 cases, allowing them to launch thorough investigations.
CDCR managers are allowed to use state vehicles to travel between correctional facilities, but not from home to their primary work locations, except in certain situations. Those situations include:
- “An employee is returning from or leaving for an official trip that is away from the employee’s headquarters under circumstances that make it impracticable to use other means of transportation, or the employee’s home is reasonably en route to or from where the employee will start work the following day.
- An employee is intending to use the state vehicle outside of normal work hours on the same day or before usual working hours on the following day, and the employee has received advance written authorization from the agency.
- An employee is required to respond to emergency calls outside of regular work hours that reasonably require the use of a state vehicle.”
Employees who store state cars at home more than 72 nights in a 12-month period, or 36 nights in a three-month period, must get a permit from their employing agency. Employees must always fill out a mileage log, including dates, locations, mileage in and out, and overnight storage information.
The State Audit began the investigation after a report came in claiming one manager routinely used a state vehicle to commute 112-miles round trip to and from work during a nearly three year period (January 2016-December 2018). The manager did oversee projects at several correctional facilities and did have a legitimate reason to use a state vehicle on some occasions. However, investigators found he improperly used his state-issued vehicle 72% of the time.
When questioned, “He asserted that his superiors were fully aware and approved of how he used state vehicles.” He told investigators the practice of managers taking home vehicles had happened for at least 20 years, with employees completing a form each month “to account for the taxable fringe benefits associated with using a state vehicle for commuting purposes.” The report then goes on to say,
“The manager also claimed that storing a vehicle at his home allowed him to respond to project‑related emergencies in the middle of the night, which he stated occurred once or twice a month. However, he could not provide a recent example of an emergency and said that he did not keep a log of these instances. We reviewed his mileage logs and found only one entry in the past three years for a trip that originated outside of his normal commute departure times. Therefore, the evidence indicates that he very rarely, if ever, responded to emergencies outside of his regular work hours.
Further, the manager did not meet other criteria that would necessitate taking a vehicle home for emergency response purposes, such as carrying specialized equipment for emergencies that is not transferable to a private vehicle.”
From January 2016-December 2018, records show the manager racked up 41,748 unjustified miles and cost the state $22,585, according to a formula using the mileage and the IRS standard mileage rates.
As a result of the initial claim the State Auditor looked into other supervisors and managers using state vehicles. The fleet supervisor reviewed mileage logs and found an estimated 30 employees use state vehicles to commute. Investigators reviewed the mileage logs for five supervisors and managers, including the fleet supervisor, who were believed to be using state vehicles to commute. During a 13-month period those five managers and supervisors commuted a total of 35,041 miles, which cost the state $18,883. Based on those rates, the misuse cost the state $57,725 from 2016-2018, although investigators believe the misuse happened for a number of years and cost a significant amount more than that estimate.
The CDCR has been advised to immediately end the practice of managers and supervisors taking home state vehicles except when justified, and to immediately write and distribute a department-wide memo on proper use of a state vehicle.
The CDCR was also told to review mileage logs for all supervisors and managers to identify misuse. The managers and supervisors found to be misusing state vehicles, including those already investigated, will be asked to pay back the costs associated.