Audit: Division of Parks Missing $1.3 Million

By: Jessica Zartler Email
By: Jessica Zartler Email

A state audit found the Colorado Division of Parks lacks oversight and accountability when it comes to spending money.

$1.3 million dollars is missing, the agency hired a comedian to entertain staff at 800–dollars an hour and directors used their positions to get cabin stays for their family and friends.

One lawmaker on the audit committee called this the biggest waste of money and resources he's seen in four years. Now the division of parks may lose some of its funding.

And people in Mesa County are worried about their favorite campgrounds.

David Calaway and his wife Louise are retired but volunteer months at a time to help clean Colorado state parks.

And because they work so hard for free, they were angry to find out about the audit.

"Where does all that money go? Somebody's gotta find the money, you don't just misplace that kind of money," Calaway told 11 News on Wednesday when he was staying at the Colorado River State Park in Fruita.

The calaway's say they hear about funding cuts all the time from park rangers, so hearing that the division of parks is mismanaging money it does have, makes them wonder.

"That $1.3 million, that's very disconcerting," said Calaway.

The Colorado Legislative Audit Committee came up with that number after looking over the books for the division of parks.

It also found more than $2 million in questionable payments for contracts, and what some auditors called "wasteful spending."

One review found the agency spent $6,100 on entertainment during a training trip for employees, including an 800–dollar an hour comedian and 53–hundred dollars to rent casino equipment.

Another review found two people commuting in state vehicles that should not have, to the tune of $40,000 in three years.

The Department of Natural Resources says it was aware of some of the problems and its working with auditors to make changes.

Officials say they already hired a new chief financial officer and are working on new ways to approve spending in the future.

Great Outdoors Colorado supplies a quarter of the division's funding.
The group is threatening to withhold money if the agency doesn't get its act together.

The Department of Natural Resources says parks won't have to close or cut back hours.

But for people like the Calaway's who donate time to help, the damage is already done.

"What are we going to leave for are kids or our grandkids if we don't start taking better care of this now."

The Department of Natural Resources says it should know within the next month how much, if any, money Great Outdoors Colorado will withhold.


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