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New Times / News

The following article was posted on January 9th, 2013, in the New Times - Volume 27, Issue 24 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 27, Issue 24

OHV Fund didn't hide money after all

BY NICK POWELL

Allegations that California’s Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Fund failed to disclose $34 million in surplus revenue at the close of 2011 have been dismissed, following an extensive investigation by the Office of the Attorney General. A report published Dec. 31 verified that $20 million had been kept from the Department of Finance by the State Parks and Recreation Department. However, the OHV Fund—a separate subdivision built entirely from user-generated fees—properly reported its revenues to state parks.

“We’re very good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” said Diana Pérez, an Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commissioner representing Santa Maria. “This is the message we’ve been waiting to receive because we’ve always known it was true.”

In July of 2012, Aaron Robertson took over as head of the state parks administrative service division and discovered that surplus funds had been deliberately under reported since at least 2003, which he reported both inside and outside of the department. Shortly after initial investigations began, California’s Natural Resources Agency issued a statement claiming that the OHV Fund had hidden tens of millions of dollars.

According to local off-road advocate Kevin Rice, that statement was used as fodder against the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, which has been a subject of debate for its alleged contribution to increased levels of particulate matter in the air and the resulting health impacts on residents of the Nipomo Mesa.

“The OHV has been completely vindicated, but I don’t think it means a whole lot,” Rice said. “You can prove something’s inaccurate, but then they just move on to something else. They never admit they were wrong.”