California’s Tax Collection Agency Engulfed in Scandal

California Gov. Jerry Brown has asked the state Department of Justice to investigate alleged corruption at the state’s Board of Equalization, the agency that collects $60 billion in tax revenues in one of the highest-taxed states in the nation.

The Sacramento Bee reports:

In a letter sent to the board’s five elected members, The Democratic governor announced the tax agency will not be able to hire key personnel or issue most contracts without approval from other state departments he controls.

His letter also announced his intent to ask the Human Resources Department and Attorney General Xavier Becerra to investigate complaints from civil servants as well as an alleged misuse of public resources.

Brown’s letter follows a recent audit from the Department of Finance that found the Board of Equalization had allowed its elected members to “redirect” staff for promotional events. The audit found the agency could not explain how it corrected accounting failures identified in a 2015 audit.

It described reports from employees who feared they’d lose their jobs if they displeased elected officials. The report also suggested that board members inappropriately “intervened” in administrative decisions, creating inconsistencies that are “contrary to state law.”

The Los Angeles Times adds:

In a letter to board members, Brown also said he would ask legislative leaders to come up with new laws to address “serious problems” with the agency that were identified in a recent state Department of Finance audit. The audit uncovered mismanagement in the agency, which is responsible for collecting $60 billion in taxes annually.

“The report uncovered issues of inappropriate interference by the board that undermines its ability to carry out its core mission: the collection and administration of sales and use taxes and other revenues,” Brown wrote. “Other serious personnel allegations involving the board were uncovered during finance’s review that warrant immediate investigation.”

The Department of Finance review found tax board employees assigned to revenue-generating jobs were reassigned temporarily to help elected board members with public outreach events to boost the board members’ standing in their districts.

The scandal comes at the worst possible time for the agency, as California taxpayers prepare their federal and state returns.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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