Audit uncovers decades-long issue with park staff ‘job perks’

SAN DIEGO — Family members of some Park and Recreation staff have enrolled in department classes and activities for decades without paying the required fees, according to an investigation by city auditors that was released Thursday.

The practice has cost the city an undetermined amount of revenue over the years.

A total of $1,312 of enrollment fees went unpaid in the first six months of this year for nine children and grandchildren of six Park and Recreation Department employees, according to the auditors. That money has since been repaid.

The practice has been in effect for decades, and workers considered it to be a job perk, according to the auditors.

“We learned that staff relied on the long-standing nature of the practice as a rationalization for continuing to not pay the fees, management did not provide the oversight necessary to remove the opportunity to avoid paying the fees, and staff expressed concerns over financial pressures such as low pay and childcare needs,” the auditors wrote.

“Despite the assertion that not paying the fees was justifiable, staff did not make an effort to obtain approval from management and sought to keep the practice a secret,” the report says.

The city has no policy allowing employees to avoid paying the fees. However, waivers of fees are allowed for residents who meet certain low-income criteria, and city employees are eligible for the exemption if they meet the conditions.

City management agreed with two recommendations issued by the auditors.

They plan to issue a memo to employees reminding them that they have to pay to enroll family members in department activities, and they’ve started a personnel investigation that could lead to disciplinary action against the workers, who were not named in the report.