Pismo Beach Chamber clams up over missing funds
September 28, 2010
The former chief executive officer for the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce is under investigation for allegedly embezzling thousands of dollars from the chamber.
Rebecca McMurry left the chamber in May, shortly after the annual Taste of Pismo. There are allegations that cash donations failed to show up in the deposit receipt at a time when the chamber treasurer position had gone unfilled for almost a year.
McMurry did not return requests for comment.
“We don’t know how much money is missing from the event (Taste of Pismo). Our suspicion is a few dollars, ” said chamber interim treasurer Tony Wells.
The allegations have created a divide between those who would like the issue to go away and those who want law enforcement officials to investigate. Some Pismo Beach residents and officials are also in disagreement over the amount of money missing and how the alleged embezzlement should be dealt with.
Some city residents and business owners suspect the amount of funds missing is in the $100,000 range and accuse the chamber of attempting to keep the issue quiet to protect its reputation.
Wells contends the allegations had nothing to do with McMurry’s resignation. He said he investigated the allegations of missing funds and could only verify $13,000 in credit card purchases for personal items.
“If she took just credit cards, our events made up for that,” Wells said. “We don’t want to paint her as a bad person.”
Wells also said that the Pismo Beach Police Department and the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office were investigating the allegations.
However, though someone from the chamber did inform police that there were missing funds, the police have not yet began an investigation or turned their findings over to the district attorney’s office.
“We are trying to get someone from the chamber to get the information over to us,” said Jake Miller, Pismo Beach Police Commander. “We just need them to come forward at this point and provide us with some documentation.”
The chamber is funded through member dues, events and the city’s general fund. Wells noted that the credit cards McMurry used to buy personal items were affiliated with event accounts and not supported by city monies.
However, the city of Pismo Beach provides the chamber a total of $104,754 a year, which breaks down as $67,254 for the Visitor Information Center, 13,500 for the Visitor Information Kiosk, $10,000 for the Fourth of July event, $10,000 for the Clam Festival and $5,000 for band review, according to Susan West-Jones, account manager for the city of Pismo Beach.
“Suellen Iness (chamber president and interim CEO) and I are saying to leave this alone,” Wells said. “I would appreciate it if you would keep your mouth shut.”