California Gov. Jerry Brown’s explanations about why state experts were sent to survey his family’s private land for oil and gas face increasing skepticism.
Brown’s office maintains: 1. that he received no special treatment, and merely used services available to every California resident; 2. that he was “interested in the history and geology of his family ranch in Colusa County—not drilling for oil or gas”; and 3. that he had merely requested public records, not a detailed study.
Those claims are increasingly in doubt.
As the Los Angeles Times notes in an editorial Friday, Brown asked Steve Bohlen, head of the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, to conduct the survey a mere nine days after he had started the job. He also received a report just two days later–“an uncommon alacrity in state government”–and also “received a satellite map drawn up especially for him.”
In addition, the Associated Press has defended its initial report, insisting Brown was interested in oil and gas potential, not mere historical information:
State records obtained by the AP describe Brown asking state workers to assess the area’s “potential for future oil and gas activity.”
State workers also prepared a map at the governor’s request, labeled “oil and gas potential,” that showed the oil and gas drilling history and geology of the area.
The Times concludes–it is not clear how–that Brown was not “getting thousands of dollars of free expert help at the expense of taxpayers.” However, it adds: “It’s inappropriate for the governor to call the head of an agency for help with personal business, especially someone he had just installed in the job nine days before. It also was wrong for his aides to follow up with the agency to ensure that there would be a map and other specific information.”
State law prohibits elected officials from using “public resources for…personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.” The term “public resources” includes equipment, vehicles, computers, and “state-compensated time.”
On Thursday, Republican leaders called for a full investigation. “If the facts are as the AP has found, then there will be a prosecution and probably a hefty fine at the least,” Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) told Breitbart News.