Sutter county grand jury reports fraud in pension fund

29 Jun

A couple of days ago I wrote a letter to the newspaper about CARD, in which I complained they are not fulfilling their mission, instead letting local non-profits and clubs do their job. They’ve recently backed out of funding the city’s Fourth of July celebration, saying they don’t have three thousand bucks to put into it. Among other local non-profit recreation groups, I mentioned my son’s hockey league, North Valley Hockey.  

I already knew, there’d been an embezzlement in the club. Even though their kids had “aged out” and gone off to college like my kid, the principal players who originally set up the league in an old cold storage warehouse in Hamilton City had kept close tabs on the club and this embezzlement came up about a week ago in the chatter. As they found out more about it, they brought in both Chico PD and Glenn County Sheriff.  

Today the story appeared on the front page of the local section in the Enterprise Record.

The problem – they’d elected a treasurer from among themselves, and then they didn’t keep close enough tabs on her. And, they changed a policy that had been in place when my kid was in the league – instead of having three members approve expenditures, they just gave the treasurer a debit card. She had access to their funds without any supervision.

I was shocked they’d do that, but you know how people are. I’ll say it – a lot of people would trust Satan – and I mean, he could be red and have goat’s legs and be wearing a hat that says, “Yup, I’m Satan” – and they’d let him do whatever he wanted if he promised to do all the work too. Treasurer is a real pain in the ass, lots of paperwork, a sword hanging over your head if there’s a mistake. Who would want that kind of responsibility? Well, usually people who want to  take advantage.

For years the league had a dedicated volunteer treasurer, the grandfather of one of the kids.  He did everything very professionally, he was even sort of a nag. He wasn’t too candy-ass to collect fees off “deadbeats,” that’s for sure. But he was very old, a retired guy with an elderly mother, a wife, lots of kids and grandkids to spend time with. None of whom played hockey anymore. I knew the time would come he’d want to leave, and I knew it would be like ripping the needle off the “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” record.

He tried to retire when our kid was in the league, and he thought he had a good candidate to replace him in one of the parents, a woman who did the books for a  very big local agency. Guess who – Jennifer Hennessy! I kept my mouth shut, but at the very same time, I was going Repo-man grab with her over the city’s books – she didn’t want to show them. She didn’t last long with the league either – way more work than she had imagined, she was actually expected to collect money off people, I don’t think she was ready for that. Shortly after she quit the league position, she got into some hot water Downtown. She resigned just ahead of Brian Nakamura’s weed  whacker, and moved to the butt-ass town of Temecula. And our old accountant was again stuck with the league’s books.

He’s the one who made up the three-member check signing rule, and I always assumed that was standard procedure.  As soon as the old parents went ahead and stepped aside for a new board, the old rules went right along with them, and the treasurer was given her ticket to Perdition – a debit card that allowed access to all the league’s funds and no supervision from anybody but those two little people that stand on your right and left shoulder arguing over your attentions.

Yeah, that’s right, this lady will fry. Her kids will be humiliated.  She might even  go to jail, I don’t know. 

Meanwhile Jennifer Hennessy, who was once allowed to hire the consultant who gave her an evaluation, and then give herself a $14,000 raise for a job well done, is off scot-free, even  though a lot of people around here would like to see some sort of investigation into what kind of recipes she was using Downtown.

And here below, Territorial Dispatch reporter Lou Binninger describes the same sort of shenanigans in Sutter County, with no accountability – idiot Marysvillians approved their own screwing in the election a couple of weeks ago.

 

Lou Binninger, Territorial Dispatch

 

The Sutter County Grand Jury (SCGJ) may release its complete 2015-16 report this week. A portion posted a few weeks ago caused a stir. (See Sutter County website for Grand Jury Report 2015-16) The initial offering has people asking important questions? What difference will this GJ report make? Will the 2004 supervisors and county administrator be held criminally responsible for breaking the law, financially benefitting from doing so and damaging the taxpayers?  The GJ accuses 2004 supervisors Jim Whiteaker, Casey Kroon, Dennis Nelson, Larry Munger and the late Dan Silva of violating numerous government codes in August 2004 when the board deceptively increased county pensions 35% and made the benefits retroactive to the date of hire. County Administrative Officer (CAO) Larry Combs managed the scheme. The impact on the taxpayers is severe. In 2001, there was a $28,707,894 surplus in the county’s retirement fund. By 2014, the surplus had become an unfunded debt of $110,802,083, a $140 million financial collapse in 14 years. In 2004, District Attorney Carl Adams was part of the idea to self-deal massive retroactive pension increases to supervisors and department heads. But when Combs realized they had to include all employees, not just leadership, they were stuck. So, all employees benefitted to make the plan legal. Will District Attorney Amanda Hopper prosecute the accused? It is the State Attorney General’s role to pursue county wrong-doing if DA Hopper contacts them. This avoids any look of politics or bias on her part. However, the AG’s office has been less than stellar when Sutter County asked for help in the past. And, state capitol ranks are managed by government unions that control pensions. The chances of the AG taking action on behalf of taxpayers being defrauded by pension schemes are slim. Some may wonder where the SCGJ has been until now. After Auditor-Controller Robert Stark’s Internal Auditor and the Grand Jury discovered that the County Treasurer had cooked the books to hide losses on county investments ents DA Carl Adams and CAO Larry Combs exerted more control over the GJ. Combs did not like the idea of the treasurer miscue becoming public knowledge. Where once Grand Jurors were sent to training conferences to instruct them on their authority, their tasks etc., that all stopped. Adams said he would do the training and Combs would set the parameters on what the jurors would look at in the county budgets. This overreach violated the independence of the GJ. The undue pressure and influence led to controlling where the juries looked, what they saw and what it meant. Many jurors only serve one year. It is a challenging learning curve. Few jurors would have the governance expertise, thus the courage to take on the DA and CAO if they did not operate independently of them? What happens when the DA and CAO need investigating? That’s the problem. The governance of the county was corrupted. The next step was to remove funding for the Internal Auditor position. Current Supervisor Barbara LeVake was Chairman of the Board that abolished the Internal Auditor. Meanwhile, Adams brought criminal charges against Auditor-Controller Stark and his assistant Ronda Putman for doing their job of questioning financial policies and procedures. By neutralizing the GJ, defunding the Internal Auditor and judicially bullying the Auditor-Controller, DA Adams, CAO Combs and the supervisors were essentially getting the keys and removing the security guards at the bank. Sutter County residents should read the full GJ report when it is posted. Then, they have till November 8 to review the candidates competing for office. Voters should look at whom and what groups are funding the campaigns. Who are the employee unions backing? The Grand Jury has performed its job in exposing greed, corruption, and a heist of the treasury by county leaders and the unions. It is up to citizens to remove those who are part of the problem and elect others who can be trusted to make reforms.

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21 Responses to “Sutter county grand jury reports fraud in pension fund”

  1. bob July 1, 2016 at 8:43 pm #

    Unfeaking believable. It’s so absurd I don’t know what to say.

    And you are right about the idiots who live in Marysville. With all the shady dealings going on in Marysville and throughout Sutter County what do the voters do about it? The idiots vote to hand over even more of their money to the criminals!

    The sales tax increase Marysville won by a wide margin. Sales tax increases seem contagious Paradise a couple years ago, then Marysville and I bet Oroville will be next. The trough feeders here in Chico are mum on it, as far as I can tell. And so is Little and Dogtree. They refuse to talk about it. Gotta love transparent government and a watchdog media!

    Check this out. No opposition to the Marysville tax increase at all, not even a sentence or two in the voter handbook for an argument against. What the hell was Lou Binninger thinking? I sure know what he was NOT doing.

    https://ballotpedia.org/Marysville,_California,_Sales_Tax_Increase,_Measure_C_%28June_2016%29

    • Juanita Sumner July 2, 2016 at 4:40 am #

      I think Little will support it, just my guess given things he’s said over the past month. Of course Dogtree will support it – the N&R, once a respectable advertiser, has resorted to begging online. She’s no better than the public employees.

      You’re right – people bitched on their blogs and their Facebooks, but nobody made any official opposing statement to the M-ville tax increase. I’m not sure what the rules are or who is allowed to make statements in the voter’s pamphlet, I’ll have to find out.

      • bob July 2, 2016 at 11:53 am #

        It seems there is no organized opposition to any of these tax increases. There was none for Paradise and none for Marysville. A while back Red Bluff raised their sales tax and I didn’t hear about any organized opposition to it.

        The Paradise vote was very close. I think with a little opposition it could have been defeated. Even a paragraph or two in the voter pamphlet might have been enough. I think that might be the case for Oroville.

        I am really surprised that the retailers in these areas do absolutely nothing, especially the retailers that sell big ticket items. I would think car dealerships, appliance stores, etc. would at least but in a minimal effort to curb all these sales tax increases.

        In Sacramento County they are having yet another sales tax increase for transportation. The voters passed a sales tax increase for transportation back in 2004 but as with all tax increases it is never enough so the politicians and bureaucrats are hitting them up again. I believe when this passes it will put the sales tax in Sacramento at 9%. I say when because as far as I can tell there is no organized opposition.

        What’s the deal with Chico? It seems it’s getting late in the game for proposing at tax increase for the general election. My understanding is that the city council must vote to put it on the ballot or the cops and Lando’s posse will need to get signatures. Isn’t it getting late to start a signature drive? I bet they’d have a hard time getting enough signatures in time. I can’t imagine them doing it as I think pretty much all the politicians in Chico want a tax increase (they just won’t come out and say it) and would just put it on the ballot. I have heard nothing in the local media or from the city council about the city council putting a tax increase measure on the ballot. When you ask these people they have nothing to say on the subject.

        And what’s amazing is that even if the politicians got all the tax increases they want it wouldn’t be nearly enough for all the spending they insist on, including pensions.

        People ought to be furious but instead they are ignorant and apathetic.

      • Juanita Sumner July 2, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

        Well I went to Butte County elections and found this page:

        http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln35/35_calendar_of_events.pdf

        It looks like “local jurisdictions” have until July 21 to submit measures for November 8. I’ve been trying to watch city council and committee agendas – you watch too.

        I will try to figure out who is allowed to submit arguments for the ballot.

        UPDATE: Further reading tells me that they have until August 8 to submit bond measures.

    • bob July 2, 2016 at 2:19 pm #

      According to this there is a city council meeting on the 5th and I see nothing on that agenda about a sales tax increase

      http://chico-ca.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2

      Would that leave them with just one meeting before the deadline?

      It would seem a city sales tax increase measure is not going to happen this election but the way things are done around who knows.

      • Juanita Sumner July 2, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

        Here’s our homework – very appropriate given the date

        http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/pdf/ballot_argument_guidebook.pdf

        http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=ELEC&division=9.&title=&part=&chapter=5.&article=

        something I didn’t like that I read in there somewhere is that it’s up to the party who is circulating the petition to announce in a newspaper ad. I don’t know when or even if the county clerk is responsible for telling the public that a petition is being circulated. I’ll try to remember to e-mail Grubbs about that.

        In the meantime I’ll keep reading, you do same.

      • bob July 2, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

        Does that first link only apply to county measures, not city? So it would not apply the city of Oroville or Chico sales tax increases?

      • Juanita Sumner July 3, 2016 at 4:20 am #

        Good question, that’s where I left off. I’ve been looking at the city of Chico pages and as usual Debbie Presson doesn’t have anything. I’ll keep working on it.

      • bob July 3, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

        If the rules for the city of Chico and Oroville are similar then if you can’t vote for or against the measure you can’t write an argument for or against is what it seems. Do you know of anyone living in Oroville who would be against the sales tax increase and be willing to write or sign an argument against?

      • Juanita Sumner July 3, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

        I’ll check with the “Oroville for Reasonable Water Rates” people.

        In Marysville, the RWR group made a lot of noise, I don’t know why they didn’t mount formal opposition. Here, as you can see, Candy Grubbs gets to decide who is “bona fide” or not.

      • Juanita Sumner July 3, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

        I looked at an article from the Mercury Register, April 19 – council member Art Hatley was the only one who voted against the sale tax. I will contact him and ask if he or anyone he knows will mount a formal protest or make the argument in the ballot pamphlet. I will also ask him about the process.

      • bob July 3, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

        That’s a good idea. Hopefully Hartley would be willing to write or at least sign an argument against.

        How To Defeat A Sales Tax Increase

        http://www.hjta.org/resources/taxpayer-tools/defeat-local-sales-tax/

        Very good info including how to submit a ballot argument.

        The article mentions that in some areas sales taxes have approached 10%. Now I believe there are at least four cities where the sales tax is 10%. Unless taxpayers raise hell these sales tax increases will be inexorable. If Oroville goes up to 8.5% I predict eventually it will surpass that, like Sucramento where in November they could be paying two separate sales tax increases for transportation alone. (One from 2004 and one from 2016, and of course this while their RT manager gets a $278,000 annual pension.)

        And you can bet that Oroville increasing the sales tax will be an even bigger motivation for the Chico trough feeders, especially after Red Bluff and Paradise did the same. Sales tax increases are contagious.

      • Juanita Sumner July 3, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

        Thanks I hadn’t thought of HJTA – great info.

  2. Juanita Sumner July 2, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    Here’s what I found regarding arguments:

    08/09/16
    3pm
    E-91
    Submission Deadline
    Notice of Election and Notice to Submit Ballot Measure Arguments
    Deadline for the Butte County Elections to prepare the Notice of Election
    and Notice to Submit ballot measure arguments for or against any
    community college, school district, county or special district ballot measure
    and submit to a newspaper of general circulation for publication. The legal
    notice shall be published no later than Friday, August 12th (E-88). Deadline
    for submission to newspaper is 3:00pm on this date.

    08/19/16
    E-81
    Deadline 5pm Local Ballot Measures
    Filing of Argument For or Against
    Last day to file arguments for or against any local measure appearing the
    ballot. Arguments shall not exceed 300 words in length and shall be
    accompanied by a Statement of Accuracy and signed by the author(s).
    Forms are available from the Butte County Elections

    so now I need to find out, who is allowed to submit arguments.

    • bob July 2, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

      “…accompanied by a Statement of Accuracy…”

      I wonder if the powers that be around here will pull the same kinds of stunts Kamala Harris pulls.

  3. bob July 2, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    I did some research and found that for cars sales tax is based on where they’re registered, not where they are bought, so I can see why the auto dealers would not care so much. Some places in California have sales taxes of 10%. If you bought a car in one of those places but registered it in Chico you’d pay 7.5% sales tax. So I can see why car dealers may not care as much. (Although the more someone has to pay in sales tax the less they have available for all those fancy options.) I would think other retailers would care more, especially those selling big ticket items like appliances and electronics. It amazes me they do nothing.

    • Juanita Sumner July 3, 2016 at 4:19 am #

      Yeah, I found out about that – I thought I was so smart buying a car in O-ville, but Chico got the tax. Oh well – no Chico auto dealer profited, and that’s what we have to tell them. I’m going to write a letter about how I discovered online shopping when Lando started talking about this sales tax increase in the first place, and now I buy all my non-food household goods online. I’ve been buying most of my clothes, even shoes online too. Christmas shopping is done online about six months in advance. Not only is my sales tax leaving Chico, no local business is getting any money from me. All because they are trying to raise our sales taxes. We have to ask local businesses, how much more “leakage” can they afford?

  4. bob July 3, 2016 at 12:48 pm #

    Speaking of sales tax increases the politicians in Sucramento want to add another transportation sales tax increase. (They already had one in 2004 and it is still in effect.)

    So today the Bee has an article about the head of Regional Transit getting a $278,000 annual pension which exceeds the federal limit. The article states, “Currently, the federal IRS code limits payouts for public and private employees to $210,000 a year from funded pension programs” but this guy will get more. And really, this just scratches the surface regarding how untenable these public sector pensions are. It’s amazing they have this kind of cr@p and the politicians expect the voters to raise the sales tax to pay for it (which won’t be enough). If the voters of Sucramento County pass this sale tax increase they are just f’ing morons.

    • Juanita Sumner July 3, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

      just scratches the surface regarding how untenable these public sector pensions are…”

      We must keep scratching, and scratching.

      My husband just gave me a haircut, I’m ready to kick some ass!

  5. bob July 3, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    I don’t understand why the county and city measures aren’t all on the County Clerk Recorder Web site, since the county has the responsibility for overseeing the election. Yet when you go to the county site the first link is for the awards Candied Grub and her staff received. Geez, give me a break! I can find nothing there about the Oroville tax increase.

    • Juanita Sumner July 3, 2016 at 2:47 pm #

      I know. When I complained to Larry Wahl and Maureen Kirk that the website was hard to use, they just forwarded my complaint to Grubbs. She simply denied it, offered to help me with any inquiries, yadda yadda.

      Candy, I shouldn’t have to contact you, I should be able to find what I need on the website.

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