Reporting David Goldstein
STUDIO CITY (CBS) – A CBS2 investigation found some Caltrans employees using Caltrans trucks rented with taxpayer money for their own personal use.
The workers have been using dozens of new $30,000 pickup trucks rented by Caltrans — even though the agency was ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce its fleet to save money.
Caltrans eliminated more than 1,300 vehicles under Brown’s directive, but it’s still renting as many as 200 vehicles a month.
Documents obtained by CBS2 showed monthly bills of more than $100,000 for the vehicles, which cost taxpayers $750,000 from Jan. to Sept. 2012.
Caltrans claims the trucks are used to conduct state business and can only be used for that purpose, but some employees do not appear to be following the rules.
Four workers were filmed using trucks for personal use, including Supervisor Sumner Baker from Colton.
Baker, who makes more than $100,000 a year, was seen driving a rented Caltrans truck to and from work.
On some days, Baker would leave his office a few hours after he got there and stop at a liquor store where he’d buy two small bottles of alcohol.
Baker was also caught using the truck to shop at Kohl’s, Home Depot, and Costco – he even bought a case of wine at Vons.
When he was confronted about using his work car for personal use, Baker said: “I have no more comments.”
His rented truck was later returned to the Caltrans yard.
CBS2 offered to show video of the employees using the trucks for personal use to Caltrans and Gov. Brown.
Brown accused CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein of withholding the video from him.
“Sir, you’ve concealed the tape,” said Brown.
“I’ll show it to you right now,” said Goldstein.
The governor then resorted to name-calling.
“This guy is like a thug,” said Brown.
However, the governor said he would get Caltrans on the phone.
Hours after that promise, Terri Kasinga from Caltrans agreed to look at the video.
“From what you’ve shown me on the video, it appears (like they’re using the cars for personal use), but we won’t know that until this investigation is complete,” she said.
Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, the head of the House Transportation Committee, also watched CBS2’s footage.
“I don’t care who you work for. Buying wine on the job is unacceptable,” she said.
Caltrans released the following statement in response to the investigation:
“The video appears to show blatant abuses of state resources by certain Caltrans employees. Caltrans has already started a full investigation into the conduct shown in the video. The employee shown buying liquor has resigned. Any other employees who are found to have violated laws or department policies will be disciplined. In addition to the investigation, Caltrans is auditing how vehicles are dispatched to and leased by employees to ensure we are protecting taxpayer dollars. While the vast majority of Caltrans employees are hardworking and ethical, there are, unfortunately, a few exceptions.”