Paso Robles administrator accused of conflict of interest

April 16, 2012

By KAREN VELIE

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.


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94 Comments

  1. pasoman says:

    Ok, let’s think about this….

    Jim Throop tells the CC that this car is too expensive for the City (us) to maintain, its better if we sell it. So, we the City, put it up for sale. But then Jim Throop decides, it’s not too expensive for him to maintain and decides he’ll buy it.

    If you are on the CC and this doesn’t REALLY upset you, you need to go. Sorry if you disagree, CC, but that is a fact. The inmates are running the prison, we need a new warden.

    (24) 28 Total Votes - 26 up - 2 down
  2. panflash says:

    This may not directly relate to anything specific on the current CCN site, but it may have good general application to the notion of the value of citizen oversight and press scrutiny.
    It is a risk to just assume that just because a town is “small” that everything is always okay. Here’s the kind of stuff that can happen in a small town if no one is paying attention:

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-dixon-comptroller-embezzle-charges-20120418,0,5457912.story

    Keep in mind that Dixon, Illinois is only 15,000 people, with an annual budget of $8-9 million. And yet their treasurer managed to siphon off more than $30,000,000 in only six years. That’s not a typo- you read it correctly- $30 MILLION.
    The message: close citizen oversight and scrutiny and aggressive press attention is utterly essential to keep government honest.

    (20) 20 Total Votes - 20 up - 0 down
    • NorCoMod says:

      Dixon, Illinois….hometown of Ronald Reagan.

      No connection to the scandal of course, just some trivia.

      (-9) 17 Total Votes - 4 up - 13 down
    • manmouse says:

      FYI Karen Velie

      RE: Jim Throop issue

      I contacted Ebay. They have a policy regarding “shill bidding” and the policy is stated as follows:

      “Buying an item from someone you know, as long as you don’t intend to artificially increase its price or desirability” This is considered restricted.

      “Bidding on your own items with another account” This is not allowed.

      Ebay is willing to investigate this transaction, if requested to do so.

      (22) 22 Total Votes - 22 up - 0 down

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