The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

California Piglet

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The 2007 California Piglet Book marks the fifth consecutive year of publication for the joint exposé of the waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement by California government officials by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation (HJTF) and Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).

The waste, fraud and abuse listed in the 2007 California Piglet Book totals more than $3 billion and includes egregious examples such as:

  • The Berkeley Housing Authority could not determine which of its tenants were alive and doled out federal rent subsidies for 15 dead tenants for perhaps as long as two years.  In a smart move, the Berkeley City Council responded by firing all 22 housing authority employees.  However, that decision was frustrated by the fact that 14 employees are protected by union contracts, so they must be transferred to other departments within the city.  Beyond paying for dead tenants, other errors by the housing authority included paying rent subsidies for tenants who did not qualify financially, and failing to verify whether subsidized apartments were occupied.
  • The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) has spent $16 million in ratepayer money to finance a yet-to-be open museum, the Center for Water Education in Hemet, which tells “the story of water” in Southern California.  What’s worse is that MWD officials asked the agency’s board of directors to authorize $4 million to save the project from bankruptcy.  The board granted this request and then some, giving the museum $4.67 million.  Following this vote, the board of Directors made a proposal to increase wholesale water rates in January 2008 by $30 an acre-foot.  If approved, ratepayers would see an increase of between 70 cents to $1.25 in their monthly bills.
  • In Pershing Square, Los Angeles, seven “automated” public toilets were installed at a cost of $300,000 each.  The toilets ask passerby in several different languages to pay 25 cents and give them a try.  Unfortunately, only one toilet is still running.  Six non-functional toilets equals a cost to taxpayers of $1.8 million, not counting maintenance and upkeep from the three city departments tasked with keeping them functioning.
  • The State Controller’s Office, in a press release dated April 18, 2007, said that not only do prison inmates get food, clothing, education and shelter, but they also get paid to be there. Controller John Chiang said that inmates are receiving $400,000 in state and federal benefit payments to which they are not entitled, according to a small audit. Total overpayments could add up to millions of dollars. Social Security benefits are supposed to be terminated for those jailed longer than 30 days. To his credit, Controller Chiang appears to be working diligently on fixing this problem, but it never should have been an issue in the first place.
  • The Mira Costa College President has been targeted for removal after spending at least $200,000 to investigate what ultimately became the theft of one $305 tree. Costs included spending $195,000 on a $151-an-hour private investigator when the college had 11 fully-trained police officers at its disposal. While a former professor in the horticulture program pled guilty to this “grand theft,” that hardly seems worth the cost to taxpayers.

  -- Alexa Moutevelis

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