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SANDPIPER EXCUSIVE
Fair Board Faces Serious Audit and Management Reports 
Bud Emerson & Sherryl L. Parks

State auditors document $244,000 in alleged
improper 22nd DAA payouts
as additional audit surfaces.

 

 
The 22nd DAA Board at its September 2011 meeting. From left: David Watson (dark suit); Tim Fennell, Manager/Secretary-Treasurer; President Adam Day; Michael Alpert (who resigned prior to the October meeting); Ruben Barrales; Frederick Schenk; David Lizerbram; and Tom Chino. Not shown: Russ Penniman and Lisa Barkett, who has not yet attended a board meeting since her appointment.

 

At its November meeting the Fair Board will confront a new audit report, along with reports for prior years, characterized by new Board member Tom Chino, in a written statement distributed to the Board at its October 11 meeting, as “caus[ing] me great concern over allegations that the district has not complied with governing laws and regulations ... and that large amounts of money are at issue.”

The Audit Office of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has previously documented a number of alleged improper actions by the 22nd District Agricultural Association, including improper payment of over $244,000 as of August 31, 2008 to managers and other employees.

The CDFA management report containing these findings primarily covers 2007, and was published on the state’s “transparency” website in January 2010, but apparently received little or no public attention until two days ago, when this report (“the 2007 Report”) plus a more recent Audit Office report covering 2008-09 was mentioned at the 22nd DAA Board meeting by recently-appointed board member Tom Chino.

Approximately $244,010 was paid through August 31, 2008 to managers and other employees in cash-outs of vacation and annual leave beyond what CDFA asserted is permitted by California law, with $240,349 going to 22 managers and supervisors.
At Tuesday’s Fair Board meeting, the Sandpiper also learned that a more recent CDFA report for the years 2008-09 exists in “preliminary draft” form. Mr. Chino attempted to make a motion to place “the current audit report for the years 2008-09 and reports for prior years” on next month’s public board agenda. His motion was ruled out of order by President Adam Day, an action that was supported by the Board’s counsel, though both said these reports would be on the November 8 agenda. Mr. Chino distributed his motion in written form at Tuesday’s meeting, along with background information.

Mr. Chino’s written statement noted, “The contents of these reports causes me great concern over allegations that the district has not complied with governing laws and regulations in several important areas and that large amounts of money are at issue.”
The 2007 Report confirms that the 22nd DAA declined to follow the Audit Department’s recommendation to establish a timeline and process for repayment of those improper payments.

Other “reportable conditions” documented in the 2007 Report were Board member benefits during the 2007 Fair, including $12,460 in concert tickets and $42,641 in catered dinners to Board members and their guests, without proper documentation to determine that these were allowable expenses. These ticket and dinner practices were noted as “prior year audit findings,” which means they were identified in at least one previous audit, yet the questioned conduct continued in 2007 without correction.
Members of the public concerned about these issues may wish to attend the Nov. 8 meeting of the 22nd DAA Board, and to review the board packet generally published online the Thursday preceding the meeting.

The Sandpiper has made an official request to examine all audit reports since 1977 under the California Public Records Act.


 
 

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