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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brettmx

First off that car is pile, I wouldn’t buy if for $500. Second, I’d love to see the actual maintenance that was done since 2007 that added up to $4503. Like I said that thing is a pile. (or the City paid a hell of lot for routine maintenance) Third, Meg Williamson is an idiot. It took almost no effort by a commenter to find the listing and the bidding history for the car. Fourth, Throop bought an ugly pile of crap and should have had better sense not only because it’s an ugly pile of crap but the mere appearance of impropriety.


Cal Coast News is not doing themselves any favors by trying to insinuate some sort of dirty dealings going on when it doesn’t appear anything of the sorts to place– look at the bid history, and Kelly Blue book is at best a poor guide for pricing. It’s barely a starting point. I wouldn’t use any figure above their Fair rating in pricing/buying a car. Well, of course I’d use Excellent if I was pricing a vehicle to sell.


Nancy

If the car is such a heap, why would someone earning an annual salary and benefits of over 200K purchase it? I have no doubt he got that car into tip top shape on the taxpayers money and probably bought it for one of his children. You don’t purchase a heap of a car for a family member to break down in on the road when you can afford better.


brettmx

Because like a lot of folks who make pretty decent pay they are cheap, and he’s not too bright.


slowtime

Come on Brett. What makes it a pile? It was maintained by the City, everything was probally fixed. Don’t you still work for the City of SLO? You should know they keep fleet cars in tip top shape.


brettmx

My gawd it’s a 2005 Chevy “Classic” it’s not only ugly but they are not a very good car. I’m guessing the only folks who bought those things were government agencies and rental fleets. Just because the vehicles are maintained doesn’t mean they are not piles


Ted Slanders

.

All I want to know is this, when is the inevitable going to happen? That is, when is Hollywood going to make the perils of Paso Robles either a sitcom, or a serious series? What is more important, is who would be the actors?


Like I’ve said before, Paso Robles is starting to make Bell, California, look like a girl scout picnic!


littlewren

The City of Paso left feedback for 15 different vehicles. You can see the name of the vehicles here:


http://feedback.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewFeedback2&userid=cityofpasorobles&ftab=FeedbackLeftForOthers


Here is the City’s current feedback:


http://feedback.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewFeedback2&userid=cityofpasorobles&ftab=AllFeedback


You can click the view items links to see photos and full descriptions. Additionally you can log in and view recently closed listings.


I don’t see any reference to the 2005 Chevy Classic. (Doesn’t mean there wasn’t one listed, I just don’t see a reference to it in feedback or past listings).


I’m not sure how to post a link, so you may need to copy and paste url’s.


littlewren
littlewren
Cindy

Interesting how he had two other bidders constantly increasing their bids the entire week. Then Throop came in and increased the bid by $50.00 (just minutes after the last bid) and he immediately closed the auction. Of course the bids are”initially” going to be very low when you don’t have a reasonable starting price. Very clever but still illegal.


littlewren

From my observation the auction was not ended early and was allowed to run it’s full course. You can compare the beginning time (at the very bottom of the bid history page) and the ending time.


The practice of bidding during the final minutes is called “sniping” and is a common practice by experienced eBay users. Waiting until the last minutes (or seconds) to bid ensures the lowest final cost, as you aren’t allowing others time to raise their bid or place a higher “proxy”.


The winning bid was placed with 2 minutes and 21 seconds to go. Shortly after the winning bidder placed an even higher “proxy” bid to safeguard his original winning bid.


Cindy

Well then, this isn’t as bad as it initially sounded. I do question why a reasonable starting bid isn’t required. Not top $ but something reasonable so that the bids aren’t artificially low. The taxpayers are very poorly served thru this type of disposal. I bet if that car belonged to Mr Throop, be would not have sold it at that price, particularly where it was still below book value at 2K higher and he had over 3K is recent maintenance records. What ever happened to a sense of fiduciary responsibility? It seems that there is incompetence every where the taxpayer turns lately and at the salary we pay him, I should think he would be more responsible with our money.


Cindy

Hummmmmmm, I was just walking out the door when I turned around because I thought I really should share this sudden thought.I recall when the large pine trees (the ones Dave mentioned that have since been cut down) were first slated to be removed. The city said it was because they would some how interfere with the repairs of the city hall. Other people said that those trees would not interfere and it made no sense to remove those old growth beautiful trees. A few people lodged complaints that I recall reading about. Of course the city got their way and the trees were removed because they always know best. After reading this article today, I have to wonder if someone noticed that the trees would certainly give away the age of the photo (87 years) that some “dunderhead” at city hall had submitted to FEMA as proof of the building being perfectly level in 2003? The cars in the photo (funny and still laughing) aren’t so apparent and easy to miss but if FEMA inspectors looked at that photo and then at the current City Hall, the trees would have gave it away immediately.


Just wondering if those trees came down for the reasons as stated by the city staff , or ????????????


MaryMalone

Ooo-la-la! Good thinking.


They really submitted a photo that old? And FEMA didn’t catch it? I think FEMA should be notified.


Ted Slanders

Cindy dear,


Knowing where you are, or the memory in general, is the second thing that goes.


I am so sorry.


standup

Cindy, the trees were atlas cedars. The hired city arborist from Davey Resource Group told the city they were a hazard. The trees had lost a few limbs over time because they had not been trimmed for many years. The ones in sunken gardens were the same way. Those however were trimmed a few years ago and haven’t lost any major limbs since. The whole removal process was a scam to give the construction people more room and screw the trees because they were not native. The historical society even preached this yet they wanted a log from the trees. Two of them were supposed to stay but they also got removed. The arborist literally was paid to deem them a hazard without looking at mitigation to trim them. And, the same company is still consulting for the city on a no bid contract that was higher than other bids from local companies. This was due to the old assistant community development director being buddies with the manager of the national Davey Resource Group. Nothing like sending our money to Kent Ohio where Davey is headquartered instead of keeping it local.


danika

Amazing how Atascadero has so many ties to Ohio, huh?


Ted Slanders

putt,


The heirarchy of Paso Robles City takes care of themselves with a fountain of taxpayer money coming in. The hell with the roads or extra police, etc., it’s taking care of their nests first and formost.


Bell, California is starting to look like a girl scout camp compared to Paso Robles!


SLOBIRD

Hold the press! We need to contact Iris in Sacramento to see if we need another investigtion (or not, we will let you know later, or not) and then find another attorney to investigate (or not) at a cost of $150 an hour plus travel and expenses. Oh yea, we need to get Iris back here (or not) at a cost of $150 an hour plus expenses. She will need to consult with Seitz (or not) at a cost of $150 an hour and of course will not put Throop on administrative leave because no one can confirm if their is an investigation (or not) and of course should there be an invesstigation we can’t share it with you because it’s confidential to THE COUNCIL – NOT YOU THE TAXPAPER. Get those pens out, another check is being written soon!!!!


HarryMalone

Where is that vehicle today? And what other SURPLUS items were sold and to whom?


3 putt

A United States Senator makes $174,000.00 per year. (perks and per diem too–to be sure)


What is wrong with this picture?


That kind of salary at a local level is absolute power– and absolute power corrupts absolutely.


NorCoMod

Drop in the bucket.


A $200,000 salary for a local city or SLO county department head or upper level manager is the new normal. Witness Larry Allen, head of SLO County’s APCD annual salary of $240,000.00. Now there’s a guy with a ton of pressure and responsibility. What if his department issued an inaccurate study or report?


His department has 21 employees and 19 of them make over $100,000.00. And they’re all laughing all the way to the bank.


I know it’s not Paso but the culture and the problem are the same. And we let it happen.


standup

The Board of Supervisors definitely gets the assist.


danika

It is not Paso but definitely worth making inquiries about.


danika

The salaries for your favoties PR city officials are slated to increase come July 1. That rubber stamping is coming soon.


Bored Watcher

Absolutely NO ONE who is employed by the City should purchase city surplus items (even if he paid more than Blue Book). This is a clear 1090 violation.

Mr. Throop, as one of the highest ranking city officials should know better/best.

This is a crime and the City, who has so much bad PR, should put him on admin. leave immediately and set the wheels in motion for termination.

You can’t “un-ring the Bell” Mr. Throop.

Pack your things and move in with the former Chief of Police…maybe you can be cell mates?


Dogpound

It is clearly NOT a violation of 1090 as this is not a contract issue. 1090 covers contracted bids for projects, not selling surplus on eBay. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this purchase of a piece of crap vehicle, nothing illegal, and not a 1090 violation. He made a smart bid on eBay, who cares?


danika

Who determined the value of the car before putting it on Ebay?


Cindy

He violated the rules on e-Bay. Not only did he bid on an item that he put up for auction but then he bought it. 100% illegal to do in an e-Bay auction.