Sand, sun, bailout bucks for Heritage Oaks Bank officials
March 12, 2009
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
If members of Heritage Oaks Bank’s board of directors and high ranking officials must kill a little time waiting for the U.S. government to deliver their allotment of $21 million in taxpayer bailout money, they might as well do it on a Hawaiian beach. And that’s what a group of at least six, including bank CEO Larry Ward, is doing this week.
An employee of the bank described the event as “the board’s annual trip to the islands.” Prior to leaving, officials informed employees of impending pay cuts and lost bonuses, sources said.
Meanwhile, officials of the Paso Robles-based bank are awaiting their TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) money after learning in January that the institution will qualify for the Treasury Department’s “capital purchase program.”
The Treasury Department maintains the best way to rescue the nation’s economy is to dole out $700 billion in bailout money to financial institutions via a bill passed and signed in October.
Ward was said by a person who answered his office telephone to be “on vacation.” He did not respond to a voice-mail request for comment. Five directors also were “out of town” or “at some conference.” Three could not be reached. And one director who did not go on the trip, Kenneth L. Dewar, said he “won’t comment” on any aspect of the Hawaii junket.
A spokesman for the bank, Executive Vice President Mitch Massey, referred a CalCoastNews reporter to the Heritage Oaks Bank Web site for information, and then ignored subsequent telephone calls and detailed e-mail questions.
Ward, writing recently on the bank’s Web site about the current financial condition, opined that “when you hear talk about multi-million dollar bonuses or corporate jets, the discussion is directed towards the big guys. I am not aware of any community bank that owns a jet or pays multimillion dollar salaries and bonuses. It is unfortunate that the media paints community banks with the same broad brush that they paint the very large nationals and the investment banks with. In reality we are as different as night and day.”
These are the bank directors, with Ward, reported to be on the trip: Michael J. Morris, board chairman, a San Luis Obispo attorney; Donald H. Campbell, vice chairman, a petroleum executive; Dr. Michael Behrman, a Santa Barbara orthopedic surgeon; Michael E. Pfau, a Santa Barbara attorney; and Mark Fugate, a Nipomo farmer.
Stock at the community bank has fallen from $12.34 a share to $3.40 a share during the past year.