Top Cal Fire Official Misused State Land, Government Workers to Construct Backyard Tiki Bar

A high-ranking official with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is accused of misusing state land after building an unauthorized Tiki bar on property he was renting from the department, authorities announced Tuesday.

The fire official, who served as the assistant chief of the department, allegedly used two on-duty staff members to help construct the 16-foot-by-20-foot structure in the residence's backyard, according to an annual report issued by the California State Auditor’s Office.

The interior of a Tiki bar build by a Cal Fire assistant chief by on-duty employee without authorization is seen in an undated photo from the California State Auditor's report released July 24, 2018.

The interior of a Tiki bar build by a Cal Fire assistant chief by on-duty employee without authorization is seen in an undated photo from the California State Auditor's report released July 24, 2018.

Authorities did not name the official involved.

The finding comes after an investigation into the department’s misuse of state resources, which was requested by the State Auditor Elaine Howle and conducted by Cal Fire.

The investigation into the assistant chief found that he did not receive written consent from the fire marshal, as required by state law.

Though he used his own money to purchase materials needed for construction, the assistant chief did not submit his plans for review before construction began, the report said.

He also frequently hosted gatherings in the bar during which alcohol was distributed and consumed, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“It is a disappointment to the department. Cal Fire has zero tolerance for this type of behavior,” said Mike Mohler, deputy director of Cal Fire, in a statement to KTLA sister station KTXL. “The department has taken action. The investigation is closed, and we are moving forward.”

The assistant chief was suspended for 30 days without pay following the investigation, and the department is currently amending the terms of its rental agreement policy, the Times reported.

Cal Fire’s chief also ordered the assistant chief to remove the structure or face eviction. He removed it in December 2017, the report said.

Six other investigations prompted by the office of the state auditor at different state agencies, including two university campuses, look into other employees who improperly used state time and property in “economically wasteful activities” amounting to approximately $200,000 in inappropriate spending.