The city of Los Angeles has paid more than $2 million for the salaries of caretakers at two city camps even though the sites have been long closed, an audit released this week said.
An audit by City Controller Wendy Greuel lays out allegations of waste at the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks. The audit, which was acting on a tip made through the Controller’s Fraud Hotline, alleges mismanagement at Decker Canyon Camp, Camp Valcrest, and Camp Radford, which until their closures, provided winter and summer youth camp activities in the mountains.
“At a time when the city’s budget situation has limited the services that the Department of Recreation and Parks provides, I urge city leaders to decide if maintaining these shuttered, unused campgrounds are a priority,” Greuel said in a statement. “Without a plan in place, wasting more than $2 million on campgrounds that no resident can use is unacceptable.”
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Recreation and Parks General Manager Jon Kirk Mukri said on Thursday that he agrees with the audit’s findings.
In August 2001, parks management decided to upgrade its living quarters for an onsite camp caretaker at Camp Decker so they bought a prefabricated mobile home that was never installed and sat deteriorating for a decade before it was demolished without having ever been used, the audit said.
The audit, which estimated that the city wasted $217,543 on the mobile home, had deteriorated so much “that it was no longer habitable.”
Decker Canyon Camp, a 38-acre tent camping site, is located in the Santa Monica Mountains, a few miles from the Pacific Ocean on State Highway 23.
The employees involved in purchasing the mobile home have since retired, the audit said.
Neither the current supervisor nor the construction manager knew about the history of failed permits or why the mobile home was not installed elsewhere, the audit said.
“We should have held the vendor and the consultant accountable,” said Mukri, adding the incident happened before his tenure. “That did not happen and the taxpayers lost.”
The audit found that some $2 million was paid to staff full-time managers at two sites -- Camp Valcrest and Camp Radford -- even though the camps have been closed for 13 and 20 years, respectively.
Additionally, the city spent a $96,000 over 12 years to truck water up to Camp Valcrest. Camp Valcrest is located 45 miles away from Los Angeles on State Highway 2 in the Angeles National Forest.
Valcrest is owned and operated by the Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks, under a permit from the National Forest Service.
An earthquake caused extensive damage to Camp Radford in June 1992. City officials haven’t been able to raise the money for upgrades that could have reopened the site, the audit said.
The deferred earthquake damage repairs led to the closure of camp services for 20 years even though the camp continued to staff a full-time camp manager.
Radford is a rustic site near Barton Flats, in the San Bernardino Mountains north of Redlands.
It, too, is operated by the L.A. city parks department under a National Forest Service permit.
City officials have struggled to get earthquake grants.
There is no timeline to reopen it due to lack of funding for even the first part of a multi-phase plan that the audit said could cost as much as $8.3 million to carry out.