See update at the end of this post with Fred Wilson's denials.
ORIGINAL POST, JULY 12, 4:19 P.M.: Thanks to a little game of Connect the Dots, Huntington Beach's city manager is being dragged into the city of San Bernardino bankruptcy scandal.
Fred Wilson came to Surf City from Smog Berdoo, trading the top city administrator posts in 2008.
He'd been the top dog in the Inland Empire city of about 209,000 people for 12 years before he left for Huntington Beach, and in roles assisting the San Bernardino city administrator for nine years before that.
As the Voice of OC's Adam Elmahrek reports, that puts Wilson right in the thick of the years covered by an explosive allegation San Bernardino City Attorney James Penman made at Tuesday night's City Council meeting: that for 13 of the past 16 years, San Bernardino budget officials hid the city's deficit spending by falsifying documents presented to the council.
Now, San Bernardino is facing a $46 million deficit and can apparently barely make its next payroll. Eliminating fire and police services, and possibly hiring private contractors to fill those roles, are among the strategies being discussed as the city pursues bankruptcy relief from the court. Keep in mind San Bernardino is a regional leader when it comes to homicides.
If Elmahrek had not made the Wilson connection to what's gone wrong budgetwise in San Berdoo, the HB official could have skated--or more appropriately surfed--past the controversy. But probably not for long. San Bernardino's mayor, council members and other officials are currently taking the heat (literal and otherwise, heh-heh), but who knows how long they can hold out without naming names.
Penman isn't getting into specifics either, reportedly telling the Google group HBTalk, "Please don't make assumptions about this statement. It apparently occurred in the heat of a difficult discussion on this subject. The budgets that were adopted during my tenure were balanced and audited each year. All these documents are on file with the City Clerk."
In other words, don't pay attention to that man behind the curtain.
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UPDATE, JULY 19, 1:19 A.M.: "I think the allegations are really baseless, and I'm confident that my record will stand," Wilson reportedly tells the Los Angeles Times of his time as financially strapped San Bernardino's top administrator.
On allegations that San Bernardino city records were altered during 13 of the past 16 years, the now-Huntington Beach city manager said every budget was balanced and audited without issues being discovered during his 12 years with the Inland Empire city.
As for San Bernardino City Attorney James Penman having leveled fabrication allegations, Wilson reportedly told the Times Penman never raised such concerns with him.