San Luis Obispo employee accused of bilking city
November 24, 2010
A San Luis Obispo Public Works inspector is under investigation for misappropriating public property for his own profit.
Sources claim Ron Faria, president of the San Luis Obispo City’s Employee Association, asked his supervisor if a mower that had been previously used to service city parks and deemed surplus should be sold for scrap.
“Per the City’s Financial Management Policy, Department Heads are authorized to approve the disposal of property that is essentially without value due to technical obsolescence or its unrepairable (or economically unrepairable) condition,” City Manager Katie Lichtig said. “The Batwing Mower was determined to be an obsolete piece of equipment.”
Faria then took the Batwing mower to Chipper Industries, a recycle yard in Arroyo Grande, and sold the approximately two ton mower as scrap metal. The owner of the yard said he paid the city a little over $150 for the mower at a rate of about $80 a ton, in March.
“The check from Chipper’s was deposited into the City’s general fund for miscellaneous revenue on March 31, 2010,” Lictig added.
Without removing it from the truck he arrived in, Faria then paid the owner of the recycle yard almost double what the city had received and took the mower to his home in Atascadero.
He ran an ad in Ag Source Magazine from April through May advertising the mower:
“14 ft. Batwing mower, $3,500 or trade for 4×4 mule/rhino/Toyota pickup?? Ron 805-391-3514, firstname.lastname@example.org, Atascadero #101509.”
When questioned about the mower, Faria admitted to selling it but said he didn’t think he purchased the mower from the recycle yard.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but it doesn’t sound right, Faria said when asked if he sold the city mower and then repurchased it for financial gain. He then hung up abruptly.
Several frustrated city employees claim Lichtig was informed about the issue at least three weeks ago and had not taken action. Lichtig said she recently became aware of the allegation and has initiated an investigation.
“The intent of the investigation is to determine if any policies or procedures were violated,” Lichtig said. “The city takes allegations involving even the appearance of impropriety very seriously and is committed to thoroughly investigating and addressing such allegations.”
However, the owner of the recycle yard said that other than CalCoastNews, no one has inquired about Faria’s purchase of the mower. In addition, staff at the recycle yard said Faria has sold scrap metal several times claiming it is his personal property from “a farm.”
Generally, government entities sell surplus equipment that has value through auctions or to auction houses.
“The City does not currently have sufficient facts to determine whether the city could have obtained greater value for this piece of equipment in its non-operational condition at the time it was sold for scrap value,” Lichtig said. “The City doesn’t allow city employees to use their positions with the City or city resources for personal gain.”
Misappropriation or theft of government property are violations of California government codes.
“Violations of the laws prohibiting misuse of public funds may subject the violator to criminal and civil sanctions,” the State Attorney General’s website says. “These penalties may include imprisonment for up to four years and a bar from holding office.”