Thursday, March 29, 2012

Kern County: Public Employee Accused Of Misspending Taxpayer Money

Camila Bastidas - 23ABC - North County Reporter
DELANO, Calif. -- Gary Johnson, the general manager at the Delano Mosquito Abatement District, is on administrative leave after the Kern County grand jury began investigating the District's spending practices.

The Grand Jury report states that Johnson used more $15,000 in District credit cards for purchases without turning in actual receipts. He also took a total of 86 days, of vacation with full pay when he should have only had 25 days but everything was approved by the board of directors.

The Grand Jury report states that Johnson would often go to conferences throughout the United States and to Europe. He would leave several days before and or stay several days after the conference, all of which were paid for by the district with taxpayer money, and those conference days were not counted as vacation time. Board officials said he should have never gone to Europe because the conference there dealt with issues that he wasn't qualified to deal with.

"He was a very persuasive person, and he misrepresented himself, and he led this board to believe that he was required to be there, that he needed to attend that conference, and we believed him," said Aguirre.

The board of directors is responsible for allowing Johnson to get away with his actions. Now, the five members are planning to create and enforce new rules.

"Starting with the contractual agreement with the next general manager in identifying the required dates of employment, vacation time and how we are going to be acquiring vehicles and disposing of vehicles,” said Aguirre.

Officials know that the public’s trust has been violated, but now they want to fix things and move forward.

"Are the taxpayers upset? They should be, and if they are not, then they will be because it is very upsetting, and this isn’t going away easily. But, we are not going to run from this. We are going to run to it," said Aguirre.

The District was formed in 1944 under provisions of the California Health and Safety Code. The objectives of the District are the elimination of mosquito breeding-grounds, education of the public at large about mosquito control measures and establishment of processes for mosquito source reduction.

The District is located at 11282 Garzoli Ave. in Delano and services the northern part of Kern County including Delano, McFarland, Pond and Richgrove. The District also extends into southern Tulare County.

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