FBI launches Atascadero City Hall investigation

February 15, 2008

2/15/2008

Federal investigators will probe activities at Atascadero City Hall, according to City Attorney Brian Pierik.

Pierik issued an unusual press release late today revealing the investigation, but said details will remain confidential. The inquiry likely centers around the city’s unconventional and questionable procurement of FEMA funds to build a replacement youth center at 5493 Traffic Way.

FBI sources declined to confirm or deny any investigation.

UncoveredSLO.com revealed the apparent sleight-of-hand by city officials in a Jan.11 posting, “Atascadero Filches FEMA funds, youth center rises on tainted land.” The article revealed how city officials bilked taxpayers out of more than $4 million in disaster aid to construct a replacement youth center under the guise the previous center had been rendered unsafe during the 2003 San Simeon earthquake.

Those officials alleged the historic Printery Building at 6351 Olmeda Avenue was the city’s youth center at the time of the quake, according to state and federal records.

At the time of the quake, the Printery Building, located at 6351 Olmeda Avenue, was not functioning as a youth center, but as a meeting hall for the Freemasons. The city’s actual youth center stood a few blocks away, at 5493 Traffic Way.

Responding to allegations of improper actions, City Manager Wade McKinney developed his version of a “timeline” to bolster his claim that funds for the city’s youth center were acquired appropriately. McKinney said volleyball, cheerleading, “Mommy and Me” classes, and Friday Variety Nights were ongoing activities at the Printery Building during the month of the quake.

However, at this week’s city council meeting, Community Services Director Brady Cherry said the only ongoing activities at the Printery Building in December 2003 were Masonic meetings and private karate classes.

Pierik said he has instructed city officials to cooperate fully in the federal investigation and enacted an unofficial gag order on city employees and officials.

Watch UncoveredSLO.com for more on this rapidly unfolding story.


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6 Comments

  1. ccn_debate says:

    Member Opinions:
    By: Anonymous on 3/5/08
    Insider
    Wow-relax man, the FBI should take care of everything. Last time I heard FRAUD is a FELONY and people usually go to jail for that. If that happens the City Manager’s office and part of the City Council will have to be replaced. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
    By: Anonymous on 3/4/08
    Brennler is an idiot, this site is a joke and you rumor mongers are hopeless. Atascadero needs business opportunities like WAL MART and other commercial development but for now, Wal Mart is the only business knocking on the door. Free market driven competition is needed and all of you haters of capitolism should pack up and move to France…and take Cognalton with you… Here’s to cutting down a few tree’s
    By: Anonymous on 2/29/08
    Sick of it-you should really look into what the City of Atascadero has done. It’s FRAUD hands down. Would you like someone to misrepresent you and then take your money? I doubt it. If you find that acceptable, then maybe the FBI should go after you also.
    By: Anonymous on 2/29/08
    Apparently “SICK OF IT” doesn’t have a grip on the reality of the situation. While it is all well and good that the community has a nifty new community center
    its a bit difficult for most of us here in Atascadero to swallow if most of the funds that completed the project were obtained by fraudulent means.
    This FEMA Public Assistance program is very noble. What other country on the entire planet helps communities in times of disaster. To defraud it, is a punch in the gut to every citizen of the US.
    By: Anonymous on 2/27/08
    I am so fed up with your BS comments. None of you know what you’re talking about. Stop giving the city such a hard time for building a COMMUNITY center to be used by all ages. It is not “just a teen center” and does not only cater to youth. There are senior programs, adult sports, and many other activities vital to a healthy community. You should be thankful for a wonderful facility that has been much needed for many, many years in Atascadero.
    By: Anonymous on 2/22/08
    I wish they could blow it off but how can they? The fact is that the greatest portion of the funds were received by fraudulent documents. Fema and the FBI has been processcuting cases all over the country for as little as 5K.
    By: Anonymous on 2/21/08
    Trying to get answers from city hall will be tough this week as all of the top city staff left town for the Carmel Valley Lodge — “Just 20 minutes from the Monterey coast, Carmel Valley Lodge has an ideal year-round climate: sunny, fog-free days and cool nights- the perfect retreat from everyday life. Lush grounds, a sparkling heated pool and spa, and charming resort accommodations with thoughtful amenities make this a favorite country retreat for individuals and small groups.” Was this one also funded by FEMA?
    By: Anonymous on 2/21/08
    paperboy
    Have to agree with you. Evidently your City submitted true facts and FEMA acted poorly. Atascadero defrauded FEMA and recieved $4mil+. I think I would rather be in the shoes of Morro Bay rather than the shoes of the Atascadero City Manager and the 3 sitting Council members who were all part of the fraud. It will really be sad if FEMA blows this one off but $4mil to them is nothing.

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  2. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 2/21/08
    Just learned of your website as it was mentioned in an article in Feb 21 edition of the New Times by Patrick Howe.
    Regarding FEMA, for those that are interested the entire Public Assistance Guide can be found at: http://www.fema.gov/pdf/government/grant/pa/paguide07.pdf

    Best wishes to UncoveredSLO.com

    By: Anonymous on 2/20/08
    FEMA must love Atascadero.

    In Morro Bay our one and only firestation was damaged in that same earthquake and had to be condemned, forcing the city to buy big tents (at a cost of about $35,000) to put their engines, ladder truck and other expensive equipment in and then spending $300,000 for a temporary station — a triple wide mobile home — to move the whole department into until a new station is built.

    The California Office of Emergency Services has been great with more than $1 million in grants to help rebuild at least part of the station, but FEMA would only grant something like $50,000.

    This to replace a fire station in a town that draws about a million tourists a year and is located within the Diablo Canyon evacuation zone.

    The new firestation is eventually going to cost about $6 million and there’s only grants for the first $1 million.

    Something truly stinks when a town can get $4 million out of FEMA to replace a “teen center” but the feds would do nothing to replace this town’s one and only firestation.

    I don’t expect much to come out of an FBI investigation into the misuse of FEMA money, considering the absurdity of what it was supposed to be used for — a teen center.

    Maybe that’s what really needs to be investigated — why on earth would FEMA give that kind of money for that kind of use? Any old building could be turned into a teen center.

    By: Anonymous on 2/19/08
    And now we wait. This investigation could take some time.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    I looked at the documents on the city web site. They (someone with the authority) actually went to the parks and recreation site and took down the last 6 months records of 2003. Thats where the activities were posted or should have been posted. I guess that’s why they had to ask Brady Cherry what activities were going on at the Printery. I don’t think there is any question about the activities or why the FBI is here. Some people will hate this site but they can’t change the truth.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    For anyone who has any doubts to what they tried to do go to the Atascadero City webpage at http://www.atascadero.org.
    then go to the City Council meeting and minutes and to the minutes from 12/14/04. Go to item B1 and read the last page of the City council minutes.This is were on July 24, 2001, 2 years before the earthquake, the City Council authorized the purchase of the Hay and Feed building for renovation as a youth center.
    Does it get any clearer than that.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    I have to say something about that post done by Get Over It. That person is actually saying that a good city manager would and should run around and defraud the government during a state of emergency. People get shot for looting during those times and they don’t manage to steal 4 million.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    The saying use it or loose is usually a cliche refering to the use of ones mind.. Need I say more.

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  3. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    According to last weeks Council meeting, Mr. Mckinney, Lewis and staffers claim that even if there were no activities in the old printery building at the time of the earthquake, the City would be eligible for the FEMA funds. I doubt FEMA would concur which is why an investigation is more than appropriate. One of these guys either falsified the FEMA paperwork or forgot to mention to FEMA that the youth center had moved from the printery. Mr. Cherry seems to be the only one worth listening to. My guess is Wade and his crew will be lying low for the next several days, maybe even skip town until this thing blows over. This is serious stuff and one can only hope that the City Council can rise above their management staff and do the right thing.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    Yes Folks, Get over it said what you think he said. How embarrassing for Atascadero. There has been devisivness in A-town for some time but this is only the second time that I heard stealing, lying, cheating and committing fraud was OK from a fellow resident.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    GET OVER IT
    We’ll get over it when it’s over. (Yogi Berra) If you think these fraud actions are ok I pitty you. When it’s over and Atascadero starts to recover you can make visits to Soledad and add your support to the criminals.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    Well this is just great. For once the city did something that benifits our children, and the same idiots who helped the two B’s get elected are on the attack again. Wade did what any good city manager would have done in the use it or loose it set of rules the feds have established.
    I say good for Wade, good for the city, and the nimby jerks like David Broadwater who just aren’t happy unless they are making other people UNHAPPY should form a support group and leave the rest of us alone. While our town dies, you all are putting nails in the coffin because you already “got” yours!
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    Please don’t give credit to George or Beruad. George is in on it from the beginning. If he doesn’t know anything about this he should resign immediately. Where has he been? They all knew about it. Poor Beraud is so in over her head she still probably doesn’t know what’s going on or even better could care less. Where has she been with all of her promises? A sad situation for Atascadero.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    I think Mike, George and Ellen will have a lot of work to do in the next few months. I have complete faith in them. I’m not sure what I think of O’malley because I know he is a buddy of Wade and has been doing some “hand holding” lately.I also know he lied to the people in the past about a very sore subject. Jerry Clay is just Jerry Clay, he doesn’t get it. Jerry was born in Atascadero, raised on the Clay Ranch and tells us that he doesn’t know what was going on but we have the two centers now and it sure is neat.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    Furious
    Keep the computer on so that you can learn the truth. Not everyone is honest but the majority of us are and we want the truth to come out and the guilty to be punished. Although I’m afraid that when the guilty get punished it’s going to affect everyone in Atascadero for a long time. Those who think it’s alright to steal or defraud hopefully will learn a good lesson from all of this.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    I think the woman standing in front of the Youth Center that was on KSBY TV the other night should be tarred, feathered and run out of town. Shame on KSBY for interviewing her and putting her on TV as a spokes person for the people of Atascadero. She is only one person. Where were the other interviews?
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    Well said Furious. But the investigation is only getting started. Lets wait and see what comes out of it befor we accuse the city or anyone of stealing. Granted the FBI is here and they don’t show up because of a rumor but it’s important not to speculate. Peoples reputations are at stake. I will wait until I know who did exactly what. We all make mistakes. This is a very sad situation and we don’t have the whole story yet.

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  4. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    I hate computers and this is the first and last time that I will write here. I’m hearing that people of Atascadero don’t care if the city stole money. I care and everyone I know cares. I’m furious that Atascadero people are being made out to be a bunch of criminals by a few residents that think it’s ok to steal because other people do it. NOT TRUE
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    Thank You Mr. Cherry,
    I hope you don’t feel bad about telling truth. It was your duty to be honest. You are a good respected man.Don’t wotty we won’t let Wade fire you.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    I didn’t know all this was even going on. What a shock. I had no idea anything was wrong or about FEMA fraud or the FBI. My neighbor mentioned it and here it is for real. Why hasn’t this been out in the main stream? Something sure is wrong with the Press. Looks like something is wrong with City Hall too.I heard that a bunch of people switched sides over this. Maybe it will bring the people together over a common cause to clean up Atascadero and restore it’s good name.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    Don’t be fooled. Everyone in the City works under The City Manager who is a micro manager and definetly runs the show. Ms. Rickard was directed by the City Manager to prepare the report but under his direction. If the City Manager left it up to a subordinate to put such a report together and submit it to FEMA without his approval and authorization he ought to be down the road. The City Manager is pretty coyote when it comes to laying responsibility onto others for his misdeeds.The truth will come out who the villians are. Thank you Mr. Cherry for your honesty.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    The lesbians have arrived.
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    While the FBI is investiagating the city, they may want to investigate “A”towns own PD. A normal citizen lies and gets jail, a cop lies and nothing. That isn’t justice it’s illegal. Protect and serve my azzz
    By: Anonymous on 2/18/08
    While the FBI is investiagating the city, they may want to investigate “A”towns own PD. A normal citizen lies and gets jail, a cop lies and nothing. That isn’t justice it’s illegal. Protect and serve my azzz
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    I can’t believe Donald is talking about the good ole boys getting in so much trouble. The entire city of A-Town is in trouble because of them. What if we have to pay back the 4 million? We won’t see any roads for a long time. They had the money for a youth center. They had the Hay and Feed building and plenty of free money. They had already received almost a million $ for it.
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    The story about the Youth Center building contract is true.
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    I agree with cutitout but I did see the last CC meeing and its true that Richard prepared the application and was still lying about the Printery being an active youth center. She knew that the skate park didn’t qualify it. Something is wrong somewhere. We all know it and thats why the FBI is here. The story about the contract for the youth center is a new one that I haven’t heard befor. I think it is easy enough to prove when city hall opens on Tuesday.

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  5. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    Using real people’s names to post comments that are fictional is totally inappropriate and degrades this site.
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    I heard that it’s Richard that will go down for the fraud and not McKinney. Its Rochelle that has her name all over the application and she is the one that provided the false info. She was still lying right up through the last CC meeting until Brady Cherry told the truth and busted her. I think she will be the one to go to jail and not Wade.
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    I also heard that there is a money trail but that it’s between FEMA people and the city.I guess there will be lots of rumors right now. When the FBI starts to request documnets the public will have a right to know what they requested. I also heard that a developer got ripped off by staff after he secured the contract with the lowest bid to build the Youth Center. The city decided not to follow the rules because they preferred the highest bidder so they made up a story about having to have the contract re-bid (over not having properly put the notice in the paper). The same 3 contractors bid the same project again only that time the (original highest bidder) came in and beat out the original lowest bidder! Whats even more interesting is that Jim Lewis tried to get the city council to agree to another round of bids and the CC said no that the contractor (lowest) had already been hired. So thats when Jim came up with the excuse to re-notice the job! Go Figure. Think there might be a money trail there?
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    I’m on the right and I agree that crooks need to go. I think if there is a lefty loon around its a Hoax.
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    The comment about the lefties etc. I am a ultra conservative right winger, if you feel a need to label people, and i think this website is great!Crooks right or left need to go down.
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    Poor Wade, You shouldn’t tease him about showers and soap. I don’t think he will go to jail. I think he did something very wrong and thats probably why the city attorney Henley quit back then. I don’t think the CC knew that the Printery had to be active youth center to qualify. I think they knew they were pusing things a bit but I haven’t seen where they were ever informed of what qualified Atascadero for the funds. If there is more to this than Wade getting the 4million for a youth center it’s going to be beyond serious. I hope the good ole boys didn’t go too far. We all should have reigned them in befor they got in so much trouble.
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    I think the FBI is here about more than the FEMA fraud. I’ve heard that they are looking into a money trail and some monkey business with the contract to build the Youth Center. Something that Jim Lewis will get to take the credit for! Its just rumors right now so I’ll wait and watch it all unfold.
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    I can’t believe that supporters of this site are being called “lefties” I guess the “right” thinks its ok to rip off the US tax payers. It’s OK to outright lie and take 4 million from the people for the other people. Humm what would Atascadero do if the people of the US ripped off Atascadero? Hey all you right wingers, there is no excuse for comitting government fraud. PEOPLE GO TO JAIL because its a seriuos crime? Get it..
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    HOAX
    I hope your sleeping as sound as McKinney and probably some of the City Councnt to iil members while they are waiting for tyhe FBI to knock on their doors. I don’t think anyone in Atascadero is going to intimidate the FBI. And, there is nothing in Atascadero that would influence the FBI except for the reason they will be here
    FRAUD-which happens to be a felony.
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    This isn’t going to blow over. The city lied to FEMA in order to get $4 Million in tax payer $$’s. Don’t you get that? Plenty of people tried to cover it up and the Tribune ran exactly what Wade told them to print all in an effort to fool the public. It almost worked.
    By: Anonymous on 2/17/08
    This will all blow over in short order…Just a couple of out of work reporters trying to make a house payment. In the end nothing will change except maybe the lefty loons have a place to hang on on Saturday night and bitch & moan!
    What a joke!

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  6. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 2/16/08
    WOW.. Did anyone watch the clip from KSBY TV? I think they should have Dan and Karen on to tell the story.
    By: Anonymous on 2/16/08
    I have one piece of advice for City Manager Wade McKinney about his future: If the soap falls out of your hands, don’t pick it up. Just leave it.
    By: Anonymous on 2/16/08
    Reading this story makes me wish I didn’t go out of town with my older boyfriend all last week. I should have stayed at The Tribune and made Stephen Curran actually go out and do some reporting. I guess i’m going to have to fire Lon Allan’s ass, too. Damn, I hope McClatchy doesn’t find out aobut this web site — they may fire me if they do!
    By: Anonymous on 2/15/08
    I don’t live in Atascadero but I have been following the issues. I’ve posted previously stating that the citizens of Atascadero are very fortunate to have a mayor who is willing to do the right thing. Let the federal investigators do their work and let the truth be known. Anyone who has nothing to hide, should welcome the inquiry. For those who may be dirty, some sleepless nights!
    By: Anonymous on 2/15/08
    Hi dog folks and fellow posters.I was luckly enough to find my way here. I didnt know about this site until now and finding it was a very harrowing expierence. I never post but I agree with both of you and when I come here again I wil be dog 3. I am discusted with our city and KSBY TV put on one person who said what they think of a fraud of this magnitude against all the tax payers of the US of States perpatrated in Atascadero. What a terrible refection of the citizendry who make up the main strean Atascaderans.
    By: Anonymous on 2/15/08
    We can all rest assured that Mayor Brennler will make sure city officials fully cooperate with this investigation.
    Hopefully the investigation shows no wrongdoing.
    But if it does, at least we have a mayor with the integrity and fortitude to deal with it.
    I hope the “good ole boys” back him up.
    It’s time for O’Malley and Clay to do the right thing.

    By: Anonymous on 2/15/08
    Thank you uncoveredslo.com for your honest reporting and bring this scam to public knowledge. Very interesting that the public statement from the City of Atascadero stated that they would cooperate with the FBI but were unaware of any violation of any laws by the City or its emplyoees. Well why do you think the FBI is here, to shop at Wal Mart? No they are looking at the City Manager for his violation of fraud against the US Government, FEMA and all of us taxpayers. When he goes down he will take everyone with him. It’s unfortunate that it has come to this point in Atascadero although the City Council has been aware of this for some time and took no action.
    When the FBI gets into the City records I’m sure they will have the City Hall file which was also a fraudulent application for FEMA earthquake funds. That should be the frosting on the cake. Mayor Brennler should immediately releive the City Manager of his position so that the good emplyoees of Atascadeo can tell the truth, like they did at the last city council meeting, without fear of reprisal. It’s time for the City of Atascadero to come clean and bring respect back to this wonderful town that was a great place to call home and will be again in the future.
    By: Anonymous on 2/15/08
    The prrof is in the pudding. This is a real news site.
    Can it survive?

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