Newberry CSD Director Calvin Owens
Blames Ex-Fire Chief For His Actions


April 4, 2013

    Director Calvin Owens points his finger during the March CSD board meeting that ex-Fire Chief Bob Springer was responsible for causing him to allegedly commit fraud in order to acquire reimbursement.  Photo shows another finger that points back to himself.

      Newberry CSD Director Calvin Owens presented a two page unsigned letter in the March 2013 CSD general meeting's supportive agenda documents as an explanation for his alleged misrepresentation and fraud for which he acquired $700 in CSD public funds.

      The assaultive letter against ex-Fire Chief Bob Springer appears well written but solely based upon Owens' heresay that the ex-Fire Chief did not follow through on an alleged 2011 promise that he would attempt to have Owens' truck driver's training expenses reimbursed by the CSD's board.

      Owens' unsigned and unnamed author letter was included in the March 26 supportive agenda documents distributed at the CSD's general meeting; but it is not contained in the agenda documents that were submitted online with the agenda's required 72-hour posted notice.

      The Newberry Springs volunteer fire department doesn't have a policy nor a specific budget for reimbursing fire personnel for DMV training expenses; only a general training budget that is left to the discretion of the Fire Chief.  Owens claims that the ex-chief had promised that he would try to have Owens' training expenses reimbursed; and Owens says that he blindly depended upon that.

      Complexing Owens' excuse is that he was originally informed by Fire Chief Springer, at the time of Owen's DMV training, that such training was not a budgeted item; which by previous history, Owens knew or should have known.  However, Owens claims that he relied upon Chief Springer for reimbursement even after Owens should have realized that Springer wasn't going to perform.

      Owens' "failure to follow proper procedures, violations of District policies... and lack of sound judgment"  in allowing his claim to fall outside of the budgeted fiscal year that his training took place, is his responsibility.  If his reimbursement claim wasn't cured within 30-days, he should have acted and not waited 400 days.  There were steps that he could have taken himself.  (Bold italics: Same words that Owens used in his letter where he also criticizes Director Diana Williams for raising the issue of Owens' alleged fraud and misappropriation of funds.)

      In his letter, Owens states, in part, that time was lost when he couldn't find a copy of his receipt after Fire Chief Springer left.  Yet, CSD director Diana Williams quickly acquired evidence of the training and the amount of the tuition paid by simply telephoning the school and asking for it.

      Pleading stupid blind trust and ignorance of what to do for a firefighter of his experience is an extremely poor reflection upon himself; especially for someone who sits supposedly knowledgable upon the Newberry CSD Board of Directors.  The incentive for Owens to resurrect the late collection of his old claim now appears to be based upon a current financial hardship.

      After a lengthly CSD board discussion during the March 2013 general meeting, the board voted that the $700 payment that Owens received was improper and that the amount must be repaid.  When a motion by Director Diana Williams stated that the amount be paid within 30-days, Owens stated that he could not financially meet the obligation and that a structured payment plan was Calvin Owens wipes eye. necessary.  Owens suggested that the district deduct his board of directors' stipend, normally $100 per meeting, until the debt is met.  The board agreed.

      Director Owens (right photo) wipes his eye as the board determines that he must repay $700.

      Although appearances of misrepresentation and fraud is apparent in Owens' acquisition of the $700 in CSD funds, no suggestion of criminal prosecution was proposed by any of the CSD board members.  Perhaps this was to avoid any further deterioration of fire department morale as the department is now down to only 12 volunteer firefighters; or no prosecution was possibly in recognition of Owens' many years of generous volunteer service to the community.  Whatever the reasoning, the community's trust in the Newberry CSD has been further eroded.

      The CSD needs an established policy whereby volunteer firefighters can acquire necessary DMV training that is easier budgeted.  The community needs a properly trained and licensed fire department.  Unfortunately, Owens' actions were improper, shameful, and a disgrace to himself, the fire department, the CSD, and the community.

      We all experience really dumb personal mistakes; but so much of this matter could have been prevented if Owens had man-upped to it rather than attempting to cover it up.

      To make an analogy of the mentality in this issue, should someone feel that a bank legitimately owes money, it is justifiable to rob the bank to get it.  The crime is O.K. if the robber feels that the money is justly owed; and no one should be punished.

      This is only another incident that further strengthens the call by some to dissolve the CSD for being dysfunctional and paralyzed in properly performing its very limited functions.  There are growing elements within LAFCO and the county government that would like to see the Newberry CSD terminated; and it is suspected that the Grand Jury might also suggest it.  This incident and the cover-up actions of President Royalty and Director Owens just may be the icing for that.

      To his credit, Owens' conduct during the March board meeting was professionally subdued during the vast majority of the board's discussion over his fate.  He initially discussed his letter, laid blame upon an ex-chief, and then with composure he quietly allowed the board to discuss the matter.

      The Newberry CSD president's involvement in February to cover-up the matter still needs to be addressed.  President Robert Royalty and/or Calvin Owens' enlistment of the CSD's legal counsel to fight Director Williams' agenda item on the alleged misappropriation of public funds now needs review and transparency.  Legal costs for that legal counseling has recently been presented to the Newberry CSD for payment.

      Who is responsible for the payment of the legal counsel's billing, for what appears to be non-District approved personal counseling, needs to be properly investigated as further misappropriation of public funds by President Royalty and/or Director Owens may be involved.

      Custodian of the CSD's public records, General Manager Paulette Marshall, is refusing to release the amount of the legal fee submitted by the attorney for his counseling on the issue.  Marshall contends that the attorney has instructed her that his billing is privileged and that only his total billing amount may be publicly disclosed and not an itemized amount for each counseling session.  The attorney's recent billing covered two consultations, one of which included the Owens matter.

      The attorney appears more interested in protecting Royalty and/or Owens than the community.

      Marshall's refusal is against a California Public Records Act request that was earlier submitted by the Newberry Springs Community Alliance.

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