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Shakeup at Pasadena City Hall – Two Key Directors – “Fired without Cause” from City Fallout from Embezzlement Scandal Raises More Questions About Michael Beck’s Management

Michael  Beck has severed ties with two key employees-Photo by Terry Miller

Michael Beck has severed ties with two key employees-Photo by Terry Miller

Part 1 of a series of articles

Nick Kipley

Tuesday, following continued public outcry, Pasadena Finance Director Andrew Green and Public Works Director Siobhan Foster were “fired without cause” according to William Boyer, Pasadena’s Public Information officer. City Manager Michael Beck made the decision after the two directors allowed $6.4 million dollars to be embezzled on their watch.
Former DPW employee Danny Ray Wooten, 51, is accused of embezzling $6.4 million from a City Hall fund generated by a surtax on residents’ electricity bills. The funds are supposed to be used for beautifying the city by undergrounding utility lines. Wooten allegedly funneled $3.5 million from the fund to Altadena-based contractor Tyrone Collins, and $2.8 million to two church organizations associated with Wooten. He is also accused of giving his former assistant, Melody Jenkins, more than $40,000 of the stolen money.
Green and Foster were among city department heads that received pay raises from Beck in December.
Wooten, Collins and Jenkins are scheduled Wednesday to appear in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Wooten is being held on $1.75 million bond. Collins is being held on $500,000 bond. Jenkins was released on bond last week.
This, however, isn’t the fist scandal involving the pairing of Beck/Foster.
Foster’s career in Riverside began as a management assistant in the City Manager’s in 1990. She eventually made the Public Works Director despite not having the traditional engineering background that the role usually requires.
Foster served as the Head of the Department of Public Works of Riverside—the same position she held until yesterday in Pasadena—from 2005-2011.
While acting as Assistant City Manager of Riverside from 2001-2008, Michael Beck oversaw Siobhan Foster for the three of the years that she worked as the Public Works Director of the large, Inland Empire city.
Beck had hand-picked Foster from a search panel meeting which provided her credentials along with two other candidates in 2011. This search panel was not open to the public and notes from the meeting were seized by the city at the end of the process.
According to his City of Pasadena official biography, Beck’s responsibilities in Riverside included, “oversight of Riverside Municipal Airport and the city departments of Community Development, Public Works, Public Utilities, and Parks, Recreation and Community Services. His crowning achievement was the development of the financial plan and implementation of the transformative $1.8 billion Riverside Renaissance program – 30 years of public infrastructure investment in just five years.”
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Photos by Terry Miller

Activist Jason Hunter, worked for the City of Riverside as a “Utilities Resource Principle Analyst,” a complex title whose duties included, “Doing the purchasing of Riverside’s natural gas and electricity at a wholesale level. Tens of millions of dollars a year,” Hunter described. He claims that the Riverside Renaissance program was able to work so successfully because the City of Riverside was playing, what he called, “credit card roulette,” to make certain funds seem like they were better off then they actually were.
Hunter alleges that Riverside would routinely overcharge on a utility—like a sewer service—and then loan the excess money from that utilities fund to the General fund, “They’d over-collect and then loan the principle back to the general fund in order to complete projects ahead of schedule,” in short, “They were using our sewer fund as a piggybank,” he claims, “And now Riverside is currently auditing its sewer fund; where Siobhan Foster was the overseer.”
Because of these allegations, Hunter claimed that, “Pasadena really needs to look into its inter-fund and inter-agency loans. We’ve spent almost two years turning over every executive in the city. It’s a shame what’s happening in your town, because these are the same people we just got rid of.”

Hunter also claims that through a “four-pronged attack” designed to consolidate more power to City Officials, the City of Riverside was effectively able to run itself, “like a crime family,” he said, “like [the City of] Bell.”
Part one to this strategy was to, “shut up the whistleblowers,” by paying them off. Hunter claims that when he was fired from his role with the city he was denied his due rights as a classified employee, “I was fired for no reason,” he claims, “Other than I was asking questions.” The city said that it would discuss the matter of his termination with him in court, during which time Riverside ran up $200,000 in legal fees, “They tried to grind me into dust using big-shot lawyers,” he says, “But I’m an engineer. I went to MIT. All I did was go point-by-point on misuse of public funds and violations of utilities rules and practices. They were stealing millions.” So what was the outcome? “They settled with me,” Hunter says. Court documents show Hunter received $190,000.
The second prong to this four-part “attack,” Hunter claims, involved bullying and intimidating any people who opposed this new ruling agenda. The Mayor and City Manager of Riverside (who just retired) would allegedly bring up ethics charges on members of the City Council in order to pressure them to, “stop looking into things,” in relation to the sewer fund. “And when an employee would make a complaint against an executive, the same executive would go to HR and pay for an investigation into the employee. Then, the executive would file a complaint against the employee to, “get rid of them”,” claims Hunter.
Sherri Stevens, who was laid off as Vice President of the Pasadena Management Association—which is a Union for Managers—saw many Pasadena Managers leave between the years of 2011 and 2012. “This was done allegedly to save the city budget,” she said, “The city manager [Michael Beck] hand-picked the people who were gonna get laid off. He’ll deny it but that’s what he said in a meeting in front of the Pasadena Management Association’s lawyer.”
When asked whether the allegations that the Wooten Embezzlement Scandal sounded legitimate or not, Stevens explained, “Financial Management Services and Purchasing should have seen what was going on in Danny [Wooten’s] budget. Both go through the public works budget line by line each year. I once pointed out a $1.1 million mathematical error in an agenda report. They were very angry about it. They said, “Mind your own business.” Currently they aren’t under investigation. However the names Brenda Harvey-Williams, administrator and Flo Langilloti, the woman who was “below her,” were mentioned.
Their manager was this guy named Larry Hammond and he is under investigation with the city right now.]”
Stevens explains that while working for the City of Pasadena she also taught night math classes at Hillside school, “I’m one of those people who are really super good at math,” she explained, “I see those kinds of mathematical errors. I turned in 26 Recommendations citing ways the city could save money or make money. Two months later I was laid off.”
When asked why exactly she was laid off, Stevens again stated, “Budget issues,” but after a pause said, “Well, if you made waves, you lost you job. I worked on the Grievance Committee during the period when managers were getting laid off,” Stevens said, “People were getting fired right and left. Probably once a month. I’ve been with the City since 1986 and managers hardly ever got let go before Beck. People would get letters saying that they were gonna get fired. It became a culture of fear,” she said, “It was like the City Manager was trying to break up our [management] union.” When asked if she got a settlement, Stevens said that the Managers who were laid off had to sign a non-disclosure agreement .Part Three to the “Four Pronged Attack,” in Riverside involved the Riverside, “Agenda Committee,” which was a secret committee comprised of the Mayor, the Mayor Pro Tem, the City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk would steer discussion and legislation by setting an agenda for City Council meetings and prohibiting certain articles to be discussed outside of that agenda. In essence, the three City Employees who work for the Council: the Manager, the Clerk and the Attorney, gained the power to prohibit the Council from doing its job.
“They cut public discussion out of it,” Hunter said, “They put everything on the consent calendar and in order to get the council to pull something from the calendar to discuss it, you had to petition a member of council to do it on your behalf. Before this measure, any member of the public could pull anything from the consent calendar. They limited public discussion to the three minutes per person in general discussion. Just like Pasadena is now doing,” and this made it easy for, “A lot of dirty deals to slip by without the public even being aware they could discuss it in the first place.”
Prong “four,” of this attack was dependent upon City Hall having influence into the local newspapers so key stories couldn’t make it to the surface.

As stated in his official City of Pasadena online Bio, Beck was in charge of the Department of Public Works (the one managed by Siobhan Foster) and also had oversight of Riverside Municipal Airport, while Assistant City Manager Riverside.

For Beck, holding both these responsibilities makes him directly responsible for the alleged cover up of a 2003 toxic waste spill that eventually cost the life of one city worker, and has adversely affected the health of at least six others.
For more information and for Part 2of this continuing saga, please see our website www.pasadenaindependent.com .
Jennifer Schlueter and Terry Miller contributed to this report

January 21, 2015

About Author

tmiller Terry Miller has been in the newspaper business for 35 plus years, following in the footsteps of his father who was a Foreign Correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph when the family emigrated to New York from London abroad the Queen Mary. When not shooting pictures or chasing a breaking news story, Miller spends entirely too much time and effort with Little British Sports Cars...more like an addiction, his wife of 20 years says.


8 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Shakeup at Pasadena City Hall – Two Key Directors – “Fired without Cause” from City Fallout from Embezzlement Scandal Raises More Questions About Michael Beck’s Management”

  1. Letitia Pepper says:

    The people of Pasadena are lucky they have a newspaper that is covering this information. The owner of the Riverside paper, the Press Enterprise, retired, and it was sold to a Texas corporation that then gutted its staff’s ability to do this kind of investigative reporting. It has since then changed hands again.
    Meanwhile, Michael Beck was hired as City Manager by the City of Riverside WITHOUT ANY SEARCH FOR, OR INTERVIEW OF OTHER CANDIDATES. I know; I was there objecting to this hire.
    Why was Beck hired without any search for candidates? I think it’s because our then-Mayor, Ron Loveridge, knew Beck would participate in covering up what already had been taking place for years, under the “leadership’ of the previous City Manager, Brad Hudson, who, with Loveridge, had concocted a redevelopment scheme, the so-called “Riverside Renaissance,” that has left local citizens forced to overpay utility bills, sewer charges, and more, and stripped local services so that, for example, the annual expenditure on public libraries is only 25 cents per citizen per year. (I think Pasadena was spending at least $4 a year on library services).
    Beck had worked at the University of California at Riverside, where our multi-term Mayor, Ron Loveridge, was continuing to accrue pension credits while on repeated annual leaves to serve six four-year terms as the City’s Mayor. (This means Loveridge is getting pensions from both the UC system AND from the City of Riverside; a recent salary poll showed that some unnamed associate professor at UCR is making $680,000 annually, and I bet that it’s Loveridge.)
    So Loveridge knew Beck before extolling his virtues as a City Manager — an accolade Beck received despite his lack of ANY experience as a city manager.
    I hope this newspaper continues to dig deep into this story!

  2. Dvonne Pitruzzello says:

    Beck started out without the proper credentials to be a city manager, but Mayor Loveridge brought him from UCR to pull off the Renaissance scheme. Although Beck is not smart enough to pull this scheme off himself he had help. We also fired good management so the scheme could be pulled off. Check with the purchasing manager, did they replace him/her. Did someone alert management and get fired? This is a trick Beck learned in Riverside. Fire Beck!!! Check not only your interfund/interagency loans but also your bond proceeds.
    City council need to call the state controller to do an audit. Do not rely on outside auditors they can be bought and sold. Beck is no good, he will only try to hide the larger problems.

  3. Dvonne Pitruzzello says:

    Someone needs to ask Beck why he was in the City of Riverside, city hall about 3 months ago, saw him in the elevator.

  4. Letitia Pepper says:

    And why, people should ask, did Beck fire Green and Foster “without cause”? Why weren’t they fired FOR cause — for failing to institute, and then follow, procedures designed to prevent the theft of at least $6.4 million? It looks like Beck is actually TRYING to protect them. He’s probably hoping that the average person will think that by firing them without cause, at least Beck is punishing them.
    Under these circumstances, describing their departure as being “without cause” is actually a reward, compared to what should be happening.
    So who REALLY knew WHAT was going on with that embezzlement — and WHERE did the money go, and WHO got a share of it? Will BECK’s name figure as an answer to any of these questions? Let’s hope there is an in-depth investigation and prosecution in the works.

  5. Letitia Pepper says:

    I can’t believe the incredible timing of this article. Toward the end of the article, Jason Hunter, a former City of Riverside employee fired for knowing too much and not keeping quiet, talks about how the City of Riverside’s top officials worked to silence public discussion.
    One of the ways to do that was that the City Council voted to take away the public’s right to take things off the Consent Calendar so that they were available for public discussion, and how then a small group — the Mayor, Mayor Pro tem, City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk — would decide what items went on the Consent Calendar.
    In fact, individual Council members were denied the right to put anything on the Discussion or Consent Calendar at all, thus depriving their constituents of any voice as to issues that needed to be discussed.
    I just recently stumbled onto the fact that this method of controlling public discussion is a violation of the Ralph M Brown Act. On January 16, 2015, I sent the Riverside Mayor and City Council a letter demanding that they stop violating the Ralph M. Brown Act and return to the former — and legal — method by which members of the public may object at any City Council meeting to any item being placed on the consent calendar, which then puts in on the Discussion Calendar for a full, public discussion and debate about its merits.
    I am still awaiting a response, but if the City fails to correct this glaring, and meaningfully timed violation of law, there is a group of citizens ready to retain my legal services to sue the it.
    Notably, the motion to take away this public right was made by Riverside City Council Member Dom Betro and seconded by Council Member Steve Adams as the “Riverside Renaissance” shell game was about to heat up. Steve Adams has been a HUGE proponent of developing the Ag Park land (mentioned in the second article in this series)and has continued to insist that there are no toxic chemicals there. I believe that Steve Adams was a primary a proponent of using sewer funds to build the infamous “road to nowhere” — a road built with city money leading directly to land that Cox, the developer mentioned in part two of this story, was planning to develop.

  6. Letitia Pepper says:

    Well, this is interesting. Some people who work in Pasadena think that the reason Michael Beck has not been fired is that he is the “Fixer” for elected officials. See the comments at http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com/2015/01/tattler-exclusive-pasadena-city-hall_22.html
    This certainly makes sense.

  7. John Beckett says:

    I live in Laguna Woods Village, a senior-citizen common-interest development in Orange County. I served on the board of Golden Rain, a homeowner association, from 2014 to 2017. In January of 2016, we fired our managing agent and formed a corporation to act as our managing agent. Many of our former employees agreed to stay. But we decided to replace our general manager. We hired former Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson.
    A few months later, we learned that Hudson had mis-managed Riverside’s finances. An audit of Riverside’s books uncovered “structural shortfalls”totaling $26.3 million. Those shortfalls were the result of “long-standing practices” that had resulted in “artificially balanced budgets.”
    Hudson has forced out several long-time employees. We had a licensed member of the California Board of Accountancy on staff. He quit, and Hudson has not replaced him. We had a licensed member of the State Bar of California on staff. She quit, and Hudson has not replaced her either.
    Hudson prefers to hire people who have worked for him before. Hudson recommended that the board hire Lori Moss as his assistant. The board agreed. When she quit, Hudson recommended that the board hire Siobhan Foster. The board agreed.
    When we hired Hudson, the association had $28 million in its reserves funds. Hudson immediately began looting the funds. How much is left? We don’t know. Hudson doesn’t disclose current reserve expenditures, and he commingles our reserve funds and our operating funds in the same bank account.
    The biggest mistake we ever made was hiring Brad Hudson.

  8. Gabe Harris says:

    Wow! It sounds like Jason Hunter has helped give some Californians a chance to reduce corruption in their town. I went to college and played football with Hunter and he is a hard working guy who is very honest in my opinion. I have seen him ask some very good questions to CEO’s that most people in the room were afraid to ask in 2001. If the CEO had listened to him the company might have been able to avoid bankruptcy. Instead the management of the company ignored Jason Hunter and all got golden parachutes while the little people lost jobs. Jason has a very well tuned bullshit detector. If you want your tax-money honestly managed for the betterment of the town then I would at least listen to what he says.

    Gabe Harris
    gabeharris@alum.mit.edu

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