California has lost millions of dollars in revenue by mismanaging state-owned lands. Those are the findings of a state audit released today.
On The Money first reported one year ago on mismanagement problems at the State Lands Commission.
The Commission is responsible for managing millions of acres of tidelands and submerged public lands that are leased to agricultural, commercial, industrial and recreational interests. There are also 85 revenue-generating leases involving oil, gas, geothermal and minerals. But the Bureau of State Audits discovered, "about $8.2 million in lost revenue just because they haven't been managing these leases," said Margarita Fernandez of the State Auditor's Office.
The audit found multiple companies failed to pay rent for years – sometimes decades – on land they leased from the state. What's more, the Commission failed to perform appraisals, while also falling short on rent reviews. Last year, On The Money talked to the Land Commission's Paul Thayer about that very issue.
"Some people would say you weren't doing your job?" this reporter asked Thayer. The former Executive Officer answered, "I understand that but again this was a particularly difficult situation. The lease negotiations are very tough."
Days later, Paul Thayer resigned as executive director. The State Lands Commission is still failing to evict tenants that don't pay their rents – in some case for up to 17 years, according to the audit.
The Commission has a new Executive Officer now. Curt Fossum told me by phone his agency agrees with the recommendations of the audit, but still lacks the staffing to address all the concerns raised in the report. Fossum said the Commission has lost 74% of its staffing positions since 1971.
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