Washington Babylon — September 11, 2009, 9:58 am

The Lawnmower That Saved California

From the indispensable Center for Investigative Reporting:

Soon after hijackers obliterated the World Trade Center towers eight years ago, Marin County received more than $100,000 in surveillance equipment to keep its water treatment system safe from a terrorist attack.

But four years after the funds were awarded, state authorities found more than $67,000 worth of the gear still boxed in its original packaging. It had never been used.

The rest of the homeland security money went toward an alarm system to protect remote tank and pump sites. Because of the region’s hilly terrain, the system didn’t even work.

The Marin County example is not an isolated one. Under the state’s open-records laws, California Watch found scores of instances of wasteful spending, purchasing violations, error-prone accounting and shoddy oversight at agencies across the state during the years immediately following 9/11…

Cities and agencies bought things with grant money that would not make California a safer place. One county tried to use anti-terrorism funds for a lawnmower but it was blocked at the last minute. Another county succeeded in buying a big-screen television.

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