Evil Lurks Within Newberry's CSD
What Dastardly Misappropriations
Are Next?

Director Owens creates yet another controversy.

Posted: March 24, 2013

      The March 2013 Newberry CSD General Meeting is shaping up to have yet another violation of the Ralph Brown Act; and a new 'Pork Barrel' fire policy.
Calvin Owens.

      Last month's meeting became fascinating when, as earlier reported in the Community Alliance Blotter, Director Diana Williams introduced an agenda item that alleged, with documentation, that Director Calvin Owens had misrepresented a personal expenditure as a CSD covered expense.

      Newly positioned General Manager Paulette Marshall, being informed by Owens that the receipt was a legitimate $700 fire department training expense, paid Owens the $700.

      According to presented documentation, the training was done over a year earlier and that Owens had been informed at the time that the training was not directly reimbursable through the fire department coffers; and that if Owens wanted reimbursement, that he needed to bring the matter before the CSD board; which Owens did not do.

      Now outside of the budget year that the training was performed, Owens who had been a loyal soldier on ex-CSD president Robert Seeley's voting block that included Director Royalty, waited for Seeley's last day in office.

      On that last day, Owens got President Seeley to sign-off.  Owens also acquired the sign-off blessing of the Interm Fire Chief, on the nonbudgeted training, before the chief was unceremoniously removed from office.  With the cohorts' signatures in hand, Owens then misrepresented his expenditure as if it was a properly budgeted fire department expense.

      As a long-time member of the fire department and as a seated member of the CSD board, Owens is presumed to fully understand his misrepresentation before the General Manager and the severeness of his misappropriation of $700 of the CSD's public funds.

Shocking Response

      What was as shocking as the Owens' alleged misappropriation of public funds, was CSD's Chairman and President Robert Royalty's response.  A misuse of the public's trust.  Royalty (possibly in concert with Owens) hired the CSD's legal counsel for advisement on how to obstruct and cover-up Director Williams' agenda item.

      Until such time as demonstrated otherwise, the Newberry Springs Blotter must question the right of any board member, without board approval, to engage CSD counsel on a personal matter at taxpayers' expense.  As Chair and President, Royalty is only one director and his actions alone do not represent the board's consensus to engage counsel.

More Misappropriation of Public Funds?

      The CSD counsel is paid from CSD funds for CSD board matters and until there is board approval to engage counsel, a director's independent employment of CSD counsel on personal questions relating the removal of another director's agenda item appears not only inappropriate because it establishes a conflict-of-interest between counsel and the other directors, but there also appears to be a misappropriation of CSD funds.  In short, to cover-up a serious incident of the misappropriation of CSD funds, President Royalty allegedly misappropriated yet more funds.

      Misappropriation of public funds is a serious accusation.  Why one director would cover-up for another director is very troublesome; but Royalty did at the February 2013 General Meeting by waving a piece of prepared paper and claiming the authority, by legal counsel opinion, to remove the agenda item marked as item "9A."

      The Newberry Springs Community Alliance is now attempting to acquire a copy of that legal opinion and will publish it when available.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013  •  6 P.M.

      Well, agenda item "9A" is sponsored again for the next General Meeting to be held March 26, 2013 at the CSD building at 6 P.M.  At this point, the matter needs to be turned over to the proper authorities for an independent investigation.

      However, the assault upon the community continues in March with a new 'Pork Barrel' agenda item that would elevate the Newberry Springs Fire Chief to Fire Czar with training powers that would reign over the CSD's treasury.  The proposal is a financial gravy train for the fire department whose volunteers could run-up tens of thousands of dollars in training expenses each year.

      The agenda item "9J" is simply labeled by Director Owens as "Policy changes to the NSVFD Policy Manual."  This is a blantant violation of the Ralph Brown Act as it clearly does not adequately represent the proposal.  Most significant is the lack of any "Financial Impact" statement on the agenda; something that is rountinely omitted on Newberry CSD's agenda notices.  In the agenda item's proposal, there is nothing revealing the financial exposure that the CSD could face.  That is only found by researching the actual proposed policy manual itself.

      In fact, the agenda item's backup sheet shows the proposal requiring "Funds Budgeted" $0; "Funds Required" $0; "Amount Required" $0.  Clearly a false and Calvin Owens finger on pen. misleading public representation of the proposal's impact.  And which director would benefit the most?

      With the lack of proper legal notice, the agenda item should be withdrawn until properly noticed as required by law.

←   Calvin Owens (left photo) nervously clicked his pen repeatedly throughout February's General Meeting.

      Owen proposes that the Fire Czar, or the Czar's anointed training director, have the power of authorizing training sessions for personnel of up to $750 per session per individual.  It is interesting that the $750 figure is just slightly over what Owen's is accused of stealing; and would this ultimately be retroactive?

      If the fire department builds itself up to 30 employees and they each take a $750 course, that would represent $22,500.  There doesn't appear to be a cap so that they could conceivable take yet another course; and another.  There is a requirement that the volunteers remain with the department for a given time after receiving such training but that appears to be unpractical to enforce without thousands of dollars being lost in civil legal fees.

      There is also a safeguard that if the training will be "department wide," "the General Manager reserves the right to request board authorization for this item;" however, it is unclear how or when that would be procedurally done and how discrimination of training opportunities would be handled.  Furthermore, the department, less one staff member, would be less than "department wide," and could bypass board approval.  The policy draft appears vague and an abusive mine field.

After effects of Seeley/Royalty/Owens.

      General Manager Paulette Marshall, acting as the CSD's Custodian of Records has, as previously reported in the Community Alliance Blotter, improperly denied a request for release of documents under the California Public Records Act relating to the February dismissal of agenda item '9A'.  It must be noted that her job places her between a rock and a hard place.  Without board approval, she appears scared to do her job in fear of upsetting some board members who have the power to fire her without cause.  It is important to note that last year the Robert Seeley regime, that included Owens and Royalty, empowered the board with the authority to fire anyone under its control without due cause.  As a result of this, we now have employees who are too scared to follow the law in fear of being fired.

      The March 26, 2013 CSD agenda can be downloaded here.  This a MASSIVE download of 9.1 MB (105 pages).  March's agenda item "9A" can be found starting on page 51.  Owens' fire department policy change is on page 100.

      The Newberry Springs Volunteer Fire Department Policy Manual (Draft) can also be downloaded.  This is a 1 MB file (95 pages).  Of particular interest is Section 109 on page 16; Section 113 on page 20; and Section 604 on pages 72 & 73.

      Come one.  Come all!  To the Big Ring CSD Circus!

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