Paso Robles administrator accused of conflict of interest
April 16, 2012
The Paso Robles city administrative services director purchased a Chevrolet which he asked the city council to approve for sale for about half of its Kelley Blue Book value, prompting allegations of a conflict of interest and misuse of public funds.
Last year, Jim Throop began promoting selling the city’s surplus goods on eBay. Throop then said that staff time required to manage the eBay listings would be kept at a minimum. After purchasing vehicles, the purchaser is required to bring cash to the city’s administrative office where Throop usually signs the vehicle release.
In December, Jim Throop asked the council to approve the sale of a 2005 Chevy Classic with 103,893 miles for sale, noting that since 2007 the city had spent $4,503 repairing the vehicle, according to the city website.
In his request, Throop said that the city no longer had a need for the vehicle and “it was highly desirable to sell or dispose of the surplus equipment for the highest return possible.”
However, while the car’s Kelley Blue Book value in top condition is $6,211, Throop paid $3,383 for the car. According to city records, he asked Assistant City Manager Meg Williamson to sign the release so that he could transfer the car into his name.
Last week, following several CalCoastNews’ records requests regarding Throop’s purchase, Williamson sent an email to council members and executive managers claiming there “was a defined seven-day open competitive bid process,” in the selling of the Chevy on eBay, a claim several employees who asked not to be named contend did not occur.
When asked for the car’s bidding history, Williamson replied, “The city does not keep records for an auction process that occurs on eBay (please refer to its website for details as might be available). However, as a matter of practice, when a surplus item is placed on eBay, the city utilizes eBay’s standard auction procedure of a seven-day open bid process, with a $200 opening bid and no ‘purchase now’ price.”
Emails to eBay requesting the bidding process were not answered.
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.”
Throop is the city’s second highest paid employee with a combined salary and benefit package of $202,930.