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March 16, 2012



Let's keep all of the local embezzlement news together. This was today's addition from the DJ:

The Mid-Peninsula Water District has sent the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office evidence that one of its former employees may have embezzled the special tax district out of an undisclosed amount of money, board President Matthew Zucca wrote the Daily Journal in an email yesterday.

Zucca did not say how much may have been embezzled, but a Daily Journal source who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution said it is in the range of $250,000 or possibly more.


And another update from the DJ today:

http://www.smdailyjournal.com/article_preview.php?id=234047&title=Mosquito district buzz grows


Our Supe Dave Pine is working on some anti-embezzlement plans as reported here in the DJ: http://www.smdailyjournal.com/article_preview.php?id=1758407&title=County moves to protect its own finances

Spurred by a year of mismanagement and alleged embezzlement at several special districts, Supervisor Dave Pine is asking his colleagues to pony up more than a quarter-million dollars to protect the county’s own finances.

Pine will ask the Board of Supervisors Tuesday to use $262,600 to establish auditing and whistleblowing guidelines along with a handful of other recommendations aimed at keeping the county’s books and workers squeaky clean. Ongoing costs of $64,000 to $69,000 annually will come back to the board at a future date.


Oops...not so fast!

County supervisors yesterday postponed consideration of a whistleblowing fund and guidelines meant to make reporting financial abuse easier for workers after one member balked at spending a quarter-million dollars for the initial investment.

Supervisor Dave Pine, who is recommending the fund with a list of uses for the money, asked that the board at least hear a presentation on the plan before yanking it from yesterday’s agenda but ultimately agreed to sit on an ad hoc subcommittee with Supervisor Don Horsley, who questioned the idea’s necessity.

The Board of Supervisors will also hold a workshop on the fund before making any decisions at a future meeting.


The Daily Journal has another update and some resolution:

A former finance worker at the county’s mosquito control district admitted helping her supervisor steal more than $400,000 in taxpayer dollars from the agency, some of which was used to pay the other woman’s legal bill in an earlier and unrelated embezzlement from an employer.

Vika Sinipata, 36, pleaded no contest to 12 felonies including four counts each of theft of government funds, embezzlement and alteration of public records. She also admitted the excessive taking allegation which means she embezzled more than $50,000.

Sinipata accepted the negotiated plea deal without any promises when sentenced and faces up to eight years in prison, said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Meanwhile, co-defendant Joanne Seeney, 61, will begin trial April 29 which is the same day Sinipata’s sentencing date will be scheduled.


Courtesy of blogger Jennifer:

I wanted to post this under the Mosquito Board thread, but I couldn't find it.......still I think it needs to be posted so I picked the wildlife thread (sorry, Joe). Mosquitos seem to be all over this season.



Here's a bit more on the actual bugs from the DJ:

Three agencies plan to join forces early next month to launch a neighborhood response to eliminate any existence of the yellow fever mosquito.

The San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District, along with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District and the San Mateo County Health System, will kick off a four-hour event on Nov. 2 that will include the distribution of materials educating Menlo Park residents on how they can help eradicate the Aedes aegypti or yellow fever mosquito population.

The mosquito, which can transmit yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya and other harmful viruses that cause encephalitis, was first detected in San Mateo County in theform of eggs in August.

While no illnesses have been associated with the yellow fever mosquito in the state, officials are on heightened alert and are taking measures to prevent it, according to the San Mateo County Health System.

On Aug. 23, an egg was collected at the Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Menlo Park, according to the county. The Mosquito and Vector Control District reared the egg to an adult at its laboratory.

The district has since detected egg, larvae and adult forms of the mosquitoes in Menlo Park, suggesting that the invasive mosquito is attempting to establish itself in the area, according to Robert Gay, a mosquito and vector control district manager.

By eliminating all breeding areas around homes and in neighborhoods, Gay said that residents can aid officials in preventing the mosquito from making Menlo Park its home.


And on the embezzelers:



The buzz around town is we apparently have a new mosquito commissioner - Joe Galligan - after a 3-2 vote (boys vs the girls on the Council) left the incumbent out in the cold. I'm sensing some serious audits coming up!!


Yup, the same Joe that cost the city of San Bruno $360,000 to defend itself against his lawsuit:

From the SF Examiner 2003:

Skypark seeks city favor

By Justin Nyberg
"Mercy," pleads Joe Galligan. The chairman of the board for Skypark, Inc. in San Bruno says his business is dying.

The high-end airport parking service has been dealt several bad blows in the past two years, including a sharp drop in airline travel, increased competition and a hike in insurance premiums. Now Galligan -- an accountant, Burlingame councilmember and former mayor -- has taken the unusual step of approaching San Bruno and asking for a favor.

"This is literally a last resort," he said.

Galligan is asking the city to grant Skypark a reprieve from an 8 percent tax on the proceeds of all airport parking lots. San Bruno voters imposed the tax in 2000 -- the year record numbers of travelers hit SFO. The tax has raised almost $2 million for San Bruno's general fund -- all of which came from Skypark, the only such company in San Bruno.

Now Skypark is running in the red, quickly devouring its reserves. And unless the city lifts the tax, Galligan said the company will close its doors and release its 60-or-so employees by Christmas.

It is not the first time Skypark has requested the reprieve. Skypark sued the city twice to challenge the constitutionality of the airport parking tax, claiming that as the only such company in town, it was unfairly singled out.

The courts sided with San Bruno in September 2001 on the grounds that the tax could conceivably apply to any similar company in the city, and an appellate court upheld the decision in May. The suit and appeal cost San Bruno about $360,000.

Galligan warns that it is not only the city that will suffer if Skypark goes under. For example, according to company President Kim Kassner, Skypark spends more than $60,000 per year at the San Bruno Auto Center on repairs to its shuttles, and another $40,000 or so to repair scratches and other damage. It buys $6,750 worth of doughnuts and $15,000 in coffee per year from nearby Royal Donuts. Its employees eat, shop and often live in San Bruno.

It is a new argument, and one that has caught the ears of the San Bruno City Council. Councilmember Jim Ruane said the effects of Skypark's potential demise will be looked at closely by the council, though the council has repeatedly denied Skypark's request in the past.

"I frankly don't think that Skypark's problems are a city-initiated problem," said Ruane, part of a two-member ad hoc committee convened to study the issue. "They had a lot of time to think about this before."

San Bruno is reluctant to offer a reprieve from the tax for two reasons. First, the city recently was faced with a $1.6 million budget deficit so severe it was forced to cut back public safety and popular programs. For a city that might face similar cuts again next year, losing $500,000 in tax revenue is not an appealing thought.

The second reason for reluctance is that councilmembers are afraid they will set a precedent that would be hard to reverse the next time a beleaguered company comes to City Hall looking for a lifeline.

"How can I, as a councilmember representing the whole county, give one particular company a distinct advantage?" Ruane asked rhetorically. "It's tough all over."

At its next City Council meeting, the Skypark will be given the chance to plead for a reprieve one more time in front of the five councilmembers, who have the power to reduce the tax if it feels there is a substantial public benefit. Galligan will point to the fact that Skypark is one of the top property tax generators for the city and local school district.

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