City of Fresno has thousands of dollars in unclaimed property at controller’s office
Last week, CalNewsroom.com first reported that GOP controller candidate Ashley Swearengin has unclaimed property at the state controller’s office.
“We’re not talking substantial issues here,” Tim Clark, Swearengin’s campaign consultant, told the Fresno Bee. “$16 in unclaimed property — who cares?”
Here at CalNewsroom.com, we tend to follow the adage that a person who is frivolous with their own money probably can’t be trusted with taxpayer funds.
The mayor of Fresno is no exception. According to the state’s unclaimed property database, the City of Fresno has thousands of dollars in unclaimed property at the state controller’s office. Earlier this week, CalNewsroom.com tallied approximately $5,000 in unclaimed property items. After asking for a comment from the city, several items appear to have been processed.
We waited to hear back from the city. But, a spokesman for the city did not respond to a request for comment about the city’s unclaimed property or whether it has standard protocols for reclaiming taxpayer funds.
John Chiang returning money to cities, counties
It’s a good thing Controller John Chiang hasn’t adopted Swearengin’s cavalier approach to unclaimed property.
“Whether it is a life insurance policy worth $418,000 or a few dollars from an overpaid utility bill, Controller Chiang has worked to return unclaimed property to the rightful owners or heirs,” Garin Casaleggio, a spokesman for the state controller’s office, told CalNewsroom.com.
Local governments and state agencies commmonly have unclaimed property with the state controller’s office. In an effort to help agencies recover those taxpayer funds, Chiang created a new system to notify government agencies about their claims.
“One of the reforms Controller John Chiang implemented during the recession was an annual government agency notification process to alert the finance officers of cities, counties and schools that they may have unclaimed property available to claim,” Casaleggio said. “Over the past three years, the Controller has returned nearly $10,000 to the City of Fresno.”
At the beginning of the week, Casaleggio said that two claims worth nearly $2,500 were being processed and returned to the City of Fresno.
Hey, Fresno Bee & Fresno Business Journal, use the new eClaim feature
The city isn’t the only entity in Fresno with unclaimed property. The Fresno Bee has nearly $1,000 in three unclaimed property claims, including $720 from Countrywide Home Loans. The Fresno Business Journal also has two unclaimed items valued at less than $100.
Both entities, along with Swearengin, could benefit from a new feature created by Chiang’s office to quickly process small claims online.
The new eClaim feature allows claims of $500 or less to be processed more quickly than traditional paper claims. Payments are generally issued within 14 days. Since launching the eClaim feature in January, the controller’s office has approved roughly 125,000 electronically-filed claims, worth nearly $10 million.
Swearengin’s baseless attacks on controller’s office
That’s $10 million of small claims returned by the state controller’s office that Swearengin considers “a disaster.”
“The State Controller’s office has been a disaster,” Swearengin writes on her website. “I’ll reform the office, fix the accounting mess, and get the state’s fiscal watchdog back on track.”
Maybe she should start with the accounting mess in Fresno.
Unclaimed Property: How do I search for unclaimed property?
To find out if you have property that can be claimed electronically, start your search at www.claimit.ca.gov. If you find property that belongs to you, the site will ask for information and then let you know if the property is eligible for online filing.