San Luis Obispo employee accused of bilking city

November 24, 2010

By KAREN VELIE

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, rfaria@charter.net, 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.”


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Crusader

This really is troubling. If Faria’s supervisor (is this person a “department head” or is there yet another layer or two?) isn’t sharp/experienced enough to know that the mower was worth closer to $3,500 than $150.00 (s)he too should be canned. If it’s a matter of that person not being hands-on enough to even care then they still need to be canned right along with Faria.


With the advent of CalCoastNews.com I think a lot more light is going to be shone on the ridiculous sewage that takes place is city and county government. What will be interesting to see is if people like Faria, Lichtig et. al. continue to get away with stuff or will the city councils and board of supervisors finally institute some real reform?


willie

Per State Government Code, lined along side an employee’s job description, a superior can terminate a subordinate for insubordination or engaging in unauthorized political activity.

All subordinates are required to gang up against any threat to the CEO or Administrator (they know not right or wrong – just job security)!

The Constitution protects the freedom of the press

Government superiors, in a sensitive matter, can order employees not to talk to the press and refer to supervisor then to a designated person programmed for press relation person.

For what? To shield embarrassment, reinforce their great powers, and to eccentrically continue the SOS.

It is so sad that nothing really change.


willie

Karen Velie

As a family man I sincerely say, you and Dave have made SLO the best place in the entire world to live.


SLOBIRD

The City use to have a surplus policy whereby surplus equipment, supplies, vehicles, etc were stored at their Corp yard and once or twice a year the Finance Dept would present the City Council with a listing of the surplus goods and after the City Council approved as a consent item then a licensed auctioneer would have a sale. The auctioneer sold city/county surplus and anyone could bid on it. This really sounds like no one is watching the chickens in the coup. Let’s see, I’m a employee for the City, walk up to my boss, ask him if he wants to send the mower to the scape yard for recycling and he says “yea”. Something is wrong with this, top to bottom. I listened to Dave’s show tonight and how is it that Karen has been told she can only talk with Lichig or the City Attorney. This City Manager needs to go work on Ron’s farm, she forgets who is paying her salary. Has she ever told us how much Callahan’s funeral cost the taxpayers, INCLUDING ALL THE PERSONAL TIME. She needs to go bye bye!!!


Use_it_or_Lose_it

-Thank you, Karen!


Lichtig has to go now. What is the People’s recourse? Who can fire her?


As for Mr.Faria, I suggest you put Katie on the back of your mower and take her back to LA. Then stay there.


UNBELIEVABLE


Kevin Rice

The Council can fire her, but she gets nine months severance pay by contract (signed by the same stupid Council that hired her).


Crusader

Lichtig needs to go back to Beverly Hills or Malibu or wherever she came from…


jeremy fisher

Wow, who’d a thought! And a union boss to boot!


MAD HATTER

Interesting. This isn’t the first time something like this has come up. A former employee in that same department was let go because of financial gain, under the table deals.


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