Hank Sims / Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 @ 7:58 a.m. / Local Government
Rio Dell Times Unearths Report of Mass Theft, Corruption by Former City Official
Many kudos to Steve and Sharon Wolff of the Rio Dell Times website for fighting and winning a protracted public records battle, which recently culminated in the court-ordered release of an internal investigation into truly spectacular cases of theft, fraud, corruption and intoxication on the part of former Rio Dell Public Works Director Jim Hale.
On Sept. 21, Judge Dale Reinholtsen ordered the city to release a redacted version of a 2009 report by the private investigative firm Stokes & Associates, which the city had hired to look into a whistleblower’s allegations of mass wrongdoing by the ex-director. The investigators, it turns out, upheld a jaw-dropping number of these claims, including:
- The use of city work crews and equipment to paint his own house, fix his garage, stack his firewood and maintain his vehicles,
- Ordering his crews to install a meter-free water line to his home,
- Selling and trading city property for personal gain, including the swap of a broken down city tractor for a revolver,
- Taking it upon himself to build sidewalks with public resources for certain private citizens [names redacted],
- Ordering his crews to hang political signs for a favored candidate [name redacted] after hours and without pay,
- Destroying a children’s playground while drunkenly operating a backhoe,
- Prolonged and frequent consumption of Jose Cuervo and marijuana on the job, and
- … many more.
Read the whole thing here (PDF). It’s really something else.
Hale was released from the city sometime in early 2009. Here’s a question: Did the Hale investigation have anything to do with the then-mysterious dismissal of former Rio Dell City Manager Nancy Flemming a few months later? Your Lost Coast Outpost is not sufficiently versed in matters Riodalean to offer an opinion, but Steve Wolff sure thinks so. Furthermore, he believes little has changed in his fair town.
“While former city manager Nancy Flemming took the heat for the report findings since she was in authority at the time and did nothing to put a stop to the criminal activities, it should be noted that these things were going on for years under multiple city managers and with the full knowledge and complicity of the city council,” Wolff writes. “An outside authority is required to finally look into the issues and bring some type of resolution because nothing has changed here and the same activities are continuing as far as we can tell.”