LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Caltrans has suspended several veteran employees after a CBS2 undercover investigation caught them drinking alcohol while earning your taxpayer money.
It comes at the same time that the state has announced California's budget deficit has swelled to $16 billion.
David Goldstein, CBS2 investigative reporter, caught workers drinking on the job and doing crossword puzzles.
"That's beer number three..."
We caught these Caltrans supervisors drinking 32 ounce cups of draft beer while on state time! That's nearly three cans in each cup! Drinking for hours while earning your taxpayer money!
Goldstein talked to John Amsler, a 21-year veteran of Caltrans. Last year, he was paid more than $95,000 in taxpayer money!
"What do you say to taxpayers? You're doing this on the clock. The state's billions of dollars in the hole, and you're out here drinking?"
Most mornings we saw him and his Caltrans partner Kathy McGinn working on the widening of the 91 Freeway in Yorba Lind. He is McGinn's supervisor. Both are surveyors.
Their shift is Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with a half hour for lunch. On the days we watched them, they'd leave the job site around 11...and they would end up at Angelo's Hamburgers in Anaheim. It's an old-fashioned drive-in with waitresses on roller skates and cheap draft beer.
On May 10th, we saw their Caltrans truck parked outside the restaurant around 12:30.
On the patio, we watched as Amsler drank two 32 ounce beers in about an hour. That's half a gallon!
Sitting next to him was another Caltrans surveyor supervisor Rick Camp. He's been with the state for 31 years.
He also drank two beers. Camp works the same shift and makes about the same $95,000.
MdGinn sat with them but didn't drink beet. When they left, she got in the driver's seat of the Caltrans truck. Amsler is in the passenger seat. Camp drove away in his own truck.
"They're sitting down and drinking already."
On May 14, Amsler and McGinn were back at Angelo's. With hidden cameras we watched both working on crossword puzzles for nearly two hours while earning your taxpayer money.
"That's beer number three"
We saw Amsler drink. And drink. And drink. And continue to drink the 32 ounce draft beers for the entire time!
"He's got them all stacked up."
He stacked each one of the empties on the floor like a scorecard. And when it was all over this Caltrans supervisor consumer four huge cups. That's equivalent to more than ten cans of beer!
This time, they left in McGinn's personal car and again, she drove.
"Here we go"
The next day he was at it again from roughly 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
"Beer number 3 delivered."
We saw him drink three beers over the course of the same two hours.
"He just got a beer delivered to him."
Again, he was joined by Camp who had two beers.
"I'm David Goldstein, with CBS2 News. We just videotaped you drinking three 32 ounce beer. Was that on state time? Caltrans time?" No, he said, I'm done.
Amsler claimed he had already clocked out. Even on the day we saw him at the restaurant in the Caltrans truck.
"We videotaped you last week when you came in the Caltrans truck. How can you do this on state time?"
He said, "I'm not doing it on state time."
"What time did you clock out today," Goldstein asks, "I'm done. I was done this afternoon."
Goldstein said, "No, you're still on the clock." Amsler says, "No."
"You're in there drinking beer? Is this on state time?"
"No, this is my lunch time."
Goldstein asks, "You're drinking beer on your lunch time? Is that allowed per state policy, drinking beer on your lunch time?"
Camp didn't answer but Caltrans says alcohol isn't allowed anytime an employee is on the clock -- whether at lunch or not.
"We saw you here last week. You're drinking two 32 ounce beers."
"It wasn't me," he insists.
"That was you last week. We have it on video. You want to see the video?"
At that point, the owner of Angelo's pulled him away and turned on us.
"Mr. Camp, do you want to see the video? I'll show you the video of you drinking beer last week."
Angelo's owner intervenes. "I'll have you arrested for being on my property."
He tries to block the camera. "Don't put your hands in front of the camera."
"This is private property!"
Goldstein repeats, "Don't put your hands in front of the camera."
"I'm not covering it up. Get of my property!"
Goldstein tells the owner. "We're off your property."
Goldstein asked the question again. "What do you say to taxpayers who are paying your bill?"
The owner called the police on us and Camp snuck out, leading his truck to be picked up by another Caltrans employee who also claimed he was off the clock.
"You sure?", Goldstein asked.
We went to the Caltrans office to try to find a supervisor to see how it could happen but no one wanted to talk -- all we got was doors slammed in our face.
Goldstein was escorted to the door. "You need to go," he was told. "Why, this is a public office."
We did see McGinn off in the distance but she didn't want to talk.
Ms. McGinn, can we talk with you about your two-hour lunch today?
"He stacks them on the ground."
Eventually, reports Goldstein, Caltrans officials agreed to look at the video and have opened an investigaton.
Said Caltrans, "if the allegations made by your video are substantiated and our investigation shows the workers did violate Caltrans rules on drinking on the job, we will fire them."
She confirmed that they were all on the clock from 6 to 2::30 p.m. when we saw them drinking -- except Camp. On May 15th when he somehow put in two hours of vacation.
Isn't it a little suspicious, that you're telling me he took vacation hours in the same hours we saw him drinking? Goldstein is told, "As I said, it is under investigation."
Today, Caltrans announced that because of what we uncovered, all three have been placed on 15 days unpaid leave until the investigation is complete.
David Goldstein, CBS2 News
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