Did City Employees Steal Over $50K of Equipment?

CNG Fullerton

Another day, another story of alleged theft/fraud of city property here in the city of Fullerton finally coming to light.

In late January 2017, Julia James contacted me about some questionable purchases charged to Facility Superintendent Bob St. Paul’s City-issued procurement card.  I asked Tim Campbell to review the purchases for calendar year 2016.  His review revealed several purchases charged to the CNG Fund that did not appear to be CNG-related.  Based on the preliminary findings, I asked Tim to examine Bob’s P-card purchases for 2014 and 2015 as well. Over the three years, Bob used his P-card to charge the CNG fund slightly less than $12,000 for several dozen purchases. Many of these purchases had no clear relation to CNG operations; for example, there were multiple purchases for clothing, flashlights, tools, and canopies, some of which appeared to be for personal use.  Most of the purchases were initiated by Public Works Analyst Trung Phan, the CNG operation’s manager.”

This time around it looks like the protocols and oversight in the city were so lax that over the course of years employees were able to use their city issued purchasing cards to buy over $50,000 worth of stuff that was of no use to the city.

“It took the audit team about a week to complete the additional review and inventory.  When the team finished, the value of questionable purchases increased to at least $50,000.”

Former employees Bob St. Paul and Trung Phan allegedly worked together to charge items to the CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) station on Basque and Commonwealth and when the city tipped them off that they were under investigation – it appears they returned as much as possible in the dead of night and so no real investigation was done and no prosecution was possible.

‘While playing the archived video, we found several instances of Trung arriving at night, briefly stopping at the CNG station, and then unloading items from the back of his personal truck and taking items into the storage area.Bob was also observed returning an item very early in the morning.The incidents took place after Dennis and I counseled Bob and Trung regarding the P-card purchases, but before they were placed on leave.”

That video evidence was actually found out purely by accident which would be comical if it wasn’t so sad.

On top of purchasing things of no use to the city and absconding with them, only to return them in the dead of night, Trung also allegedly manipulated his payroll to get unjustified overtime.

“The research revealed that Trung charged overtime several times a month, claiming he had to come in after hours to reset the station’s equipment. This contradicted with indications by Fastech’s maintenance technician, that the equipment rarely failed.”

That nobody in the city up the food chain knew the efficiency or status of the CNG station and what the vendor even did, as evidenced by an employee able to fake overtime for unneeded work, is another damning indictment on city hall.

The culmination of all of this was yet more settlement agreements coming out of corruption or malfeasance on the part of government employees and not a word to the people of Fullerton. It’s just $50,000+ of your money that was wasted so why tell you anything?

What all was purchased? How much money was wasted? How long did all of this go on and was anybody else involved? The world will never find out. Why? Because:

CNG Investigation Halted

“We halted the internal investigation when the employees made the decision to resign.  As such, I am not anticipating a final report.”

That’s right. The city decided they didn’t want to know the full extent of the issue once they were able to settle with the employees in question and successfully sweep this issue, like so many others, under the rug.

We here at Friends for Fullerton’s Future had inquired about this issue when we were first alerted to it and the response at the time from the city was as follows:

“Regarding #2 of your request, the records you have listed are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Government Code section 6254(b), (c), (f) and (k); Government Code section 54963, Evidence Code Section 950 et seq., Code of Civil Procedure section 2018.010, and Government Code section 6255 (personnel, law enforcement investigative files, Brown Act, litigation, attorney-client privilege and attorney work product).”

So much for an open and transparent government. Once again we were all left in the dark while simultaneously being forced to pay for the useless purchases, admin leave and billable hours required to settle this nonsense.

Speaking of the settlements, the one with Trung, likely the same or similar with that of St. Paul, has the boilerplate Paid Leave (vacation) nonsense and other such niceties. The best part though, as usual, is as follows:

“Employer agrees not to defame, disparage or demean Employee for anything he did or may have done in the course and scope of his relationship with Employer.”

Lord help the next employer these two end up working for in the future which in the case of Phan is the CA Department of Transportation. I guess the city helped him to fail upwards.

Phan LinkedIn

You can read the settlement agreement with Phan Trung [HERE].

The report about the entire incident is as follows:

CNG Report 01CNG Report 02CNG Report 03

Chronic Failure No News Is Bad News Small Stuff Adds Up Transparency Watch Your Wallet

20 thoughts on “Did City Employees Steal Over $50K of Equipment?

  1. How do these people still have jobs?

    Maybe instead of the City Prosecutor threatening bloggers, he should put people who steal actual money in jail.

    This city has its priorities completely backwards, and that all starts at the very top.

  2. Don Hoppe, steeped in the corrupt cover-up machinations of Jim Armstrong, Chris Myers and the ultimate Master of Disaster – Joe “Burt” Felz.

    And after mismanaging numerous public works fiascoes and covering up corruption, Hoppe retired with a massive pension paid for by you and me.

    Shameful.

  3. So why wasn’t this matter handed over to the District Attorney, at least for a face-saving whitewash? It seems to me that Hoppe and the City Attorney were guilty of obstruction of justice. Unless of course grand theft isn’t considered a crime for a Fullerton city employee.

    1. Domer signed off on it, and then did nothing when the perp went and got a job with the state. The whole city is run by crooks.

    2. It wasn’t turned over to the DA because There was no proof of theft because there was no theft. It’s also why these men weren’t fired and have gotten hired into better jobs elsewhere or have retired with decent pensions and aren’t out on bail. Add the constant use of words like “seems to be” and “appear to be” and “questionable” and so on in Hoppes statement, and throw in the name Filarsky, it’s evident you’ve got a bully job involving two scapegoats to cover for bad upper management. Unfortunately bad upper management isn’t a crime, So that wouldn’t concern the DA either (eyeroll).

      1. Read it again. There’s not enough proof of theft for it to go to the DA because the folks at City Hall let it known they were looking and the employees returned everything in the dead of night. This reads like it was incompetence compounding theft, not a lack of theft.

        1. They also stopped looking when the employees agreed to resign.

          Agreeing to place one’s head into the sand does not mean there was (is) no evidence. I’m sure EVERYTHING at the CA Dept of Transportation is on the up and up, and no one over there reading this blog is looking at anyone’s purchases for the last six months.

        2. I think YOU need to read it again. For one, Theft is a crime, so you missed the part that says “criminal conduct was ruled out”. The rest are only his suspicions. Second, nowhere does it say DEAD OF NIGHT. Nighttime is not necessarily late, particularly in the fall and winter. AND the CNG runs 24 hours, so that’s moot. Third, he doesn’t say they “returned everything” and the word “returned” is itself questionable. most of lower management (at least those who are smart), particularly for facilities – where again many run 24 hours, keep supplies in their vehicles in case they get called out after hours and it’s not uncommon for them to bring these items in the next day, monday morning, switch them out while working, or hang on to them for future repairs etc. that’s not a crime either! It’s called efficiency. Hoppe is well aware of this (and as a taxpayer, I would encourage it). So use of the word “returning” is misleading. The “evidence” is circumstantial at worst, and crap at best. that’s why the DA isn’t involved.

  4. This was probably preventable had that LOSER Joe Felz not given Bob St. Paul a job as Building Superintendent.

    You see, Bob was a Redevelopment Agency employee who was out of work when the RDA was shut down. He should have been given his walking papers, but, oh no, Joe gave him a new position with the City.

  5. Fullerton may appear to be the most corrupted city in the OC – but that’s only because FFFF is so damn good at pulling back the curtain. Awesome work. There’s never just one cockroach in the kitchen once you start looking around. I’d bet there are fewer cockroaches in Fullerton’s government than most. They just don’t have as many places to hide with FFFF on the hunt. Best investigative journalism in the Southland.

  6. Old news!!! Come up with something new you pricks!!! Don’t get mad bc I get a great pension after this wonderful ride!!

    1. Hahaha!! Right? This blog, although quite entertaining, always reeks of envy and contempt. Don’t hate the players, hate the game, people! Good for you guys. By being bullied into leaving the City, you were done a favor. Go somewhere where your talents will be appreciated. Looks like Trung already has. BTW: I wouldn’t believe anything Don Hoppe says…or writes; he’s always got an ulterior motive. Can’t be trusted.

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