The former deputy director of state parks at the vortex of a financial scandal has a string of criminal convictions, including a felony DUI, and spent 12 of his 23 years in state government on court-ordered probation, according to court records.
Manuel Thomas Lopez, 45, is the former deputy director of administrative services at the California Department of Parks and Recreation who has admitted carrying out a vacation buyout program in 2011 that state officials have deemed unauthorized. Lopez himself benefited from the program, which cost more than $271,000.
His former boss, parks director Ruth Coleman,accused Lopez of also playing a role in hiding $54 million in two special funds at the parks department. For as long as 12 years, for reasons that remain unclear, the department misrepresented the balance in the two funds in its regular reports to the state Finance Department. The practice continued even as the department moved to close 70 parks to absorbstate budget cuts.