Pismo Beach Chamber embezzlement charges under dispute

January 12, 2011

The former chief executive officer for the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce pleaded not guilty to grand theft by embezzlement on Tuesday amid allegations that additional monies are missing.

The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s complaint says Rebecca McMurry embezzled $5,248.97 in credit card payments for personal items. However, several local business owners and chamber officials claim McMurry is accountable for additional missing funds.

When asked in September about the alleged missing monies, chamber interim treasurer Tony Wells said that 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 told CalCoastNews in September. “We don’t want to paint her as a bad person.”

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. The allegations have created a divide among those who hoped the issue would go away and those who wanted McMurry held accountable for the missing monies.

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.

Wells noted that the credit cards McMurry used to buy personal items were affiliated with event accounts and not supported by city monies.

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.

In early October, Pismo Beach Police opened an investigation after receiving information from a chamber official about the credit card purchases.

McMurry’s pre-preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 24.

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Another notch for Cal Coast reporting. You’re super!

CalCoast News: please link your original stories about this matter.

This alleged wrongdoing was circulating in Pismo circles since May of 2010 and Cal Coast News broke it as a public interest story 4 months ago.

Is it me or do others find it laughable that the Tribune only reported the story after McMurray was arraigned? The Tribs only mention was when McMurry suddenly left town with the Council and Suellen Iness singing her praises.

Once again thanks to Cal Coast News for being at the front and having the integrity and savy to keep us informed. Had you not reported this whole thing would have been swept under the pier.

She did link it to her 9/28/2010 article. Click on the link in this story that says; “asked in September” and it will take you to the original CCN story.