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
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
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
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
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
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.