Strip clubs, runaway credit card charges, and $50,000 of unwarranted spending. What may sound like a wild weekend in Sin City is actually just the modus operandi of a public utility district in Northern California.
Last month, the Plumas County News reported that William D. Turner, General Manager for the Chester Public Utilities District, was charged with felony embezzlement. The DA brought forth charges after discovering that Turner had spent over $1,700 at the French Quarter Men’s Club, a strip club in Reno.
The Plumas County Grand Jury harshly criticized the CPUD for allowing Turner to operate “completely independently and without supervision.” The grand jury’s report also found that Turner would routinely draft the agendas for meetings under a different name, determine when public meetings would be held based on his personal schedule and amend Board-approved minutes after the meetings.
An external audit conducted by Haws, Theobald and Auman confirmed the existence of these practices. The audit also found that the district allowed large payables for workers compensation and PERS retirement to accrue throughout the year, appropriated $50,000 for personnel without authorization, slacked on billing fire contracts (and risked losing funding as a result), failed to safeguard medical supplies and neglected to make payments on its ambulance service.
Residents of the small county of just over 20,000 residents in the Sierra Nevada Mountains have been up-in-arms for some time over the conduct of the CPUD. In 2012, a recall effort was launched against all five members of the CPUD board alleging serious fiscal mismanagement. It was eventually abandoned.
Nonetheless, the recall efforts sent a message to the CPUD board and in January, both Board President Tonu Plakk and the board’s second most senior director, Dick Withrow, resigned from their respective posts. Neither Plakk nor Withrow would provide a reason for stepping down. As a result of Withrow’s resignation, all five of the Board’s seats will be up for election in November.
For more info on the audit’s findings, read the full article here.