SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Employees of one of California's 54 district agricultural associations misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars in state money, and the agency in charge of oversight failed to catch the violations for years, according to an audit released Tuesday.
The state auditor's report details "gross mismanagement" of the district, but does not identify it by name. District associations hold local fairs and expositions that highlight California's agricultural resources and products.
The association's CEO and maintenance supervisor allowed workers to drink alcohol at job sites and drive state-owned vehicles for personal use in violation of state policy, the audit found.
One employee misused state-owned equipment, materials and staff to perform side jobs, investigators said.
The association's leaders "did not institute basic safeguards that could have prevented and discouraged improper activities," the report said.
Employees racked up more than $132,000 in credit card purchases with no supporting receipts and another $130,000 of individual credit card purchases without the required approval of the CEO, the report said. The state paid more than $5,100 for late fees and interest because the association didn't pay its credit card bills on time, according to auditors.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture, which oversees the districts, "did not perform biannual compliance audits of the association that could have discovered and addressed many of these improper governmental activities," the report said.
The department "takes the findings of the state auditor seriously and work is already underway to address many of the recommendations," said Steve Lyle, its director of public affairs. That work includes adding internal auditors, boosting legal support and increasing training, he said in a statement.
The audit recommends the department take disciplinary action against the district association's CEO, maintenance supervisor and other staff who engaged in improper activities and recoup funds from people who misused state resources.
The department must also strengthen oversight of the districts to protect state assets and prevent misuse of resources, auditors said.