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More Spending Irregularities Suspected : Government: Further investigation discloses that the city manager's apparent misuse of funds was more widespread than had been previously thought.

April 29, 1993|LEE ROMNEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BRADBURY — Longtime Bradbury City Manager Dolly Vollaire may have diverted much more city money to her personal use than city officials first believed, Mayor Audrey Hon says.

An audit requested by the council last month focused on Vollaire's use of the city credit card, but a more comprehensive look at city finances revealed irregularities of "significant amounts" in several other accounts from which Vollaire sought reimbursement, Hon said Monday after a three-hour closed session of the City Council.

Those accounts include petty cash and Vollaire's personal credit card account at F&A Federal Credit Union.

In all the accounts, Vollaire submitted requests for money that she said paid for city items and services, but the receipts appear to show that many of those items were not for the city, said City Atty. C. Edward Dilkes.

Although city officials would not cite a dollar figure, Dilkes said the amounts are "very substantial. We're talking big money."

After meeting Monday night with an auditor from the Pasadena accounting firm of McGladry & Pullen, the City Council decided to extend the review of Vollaire's spending to at least 1983, when her city credit card was first issued.

Vollaire's alleged misuse of city funds was brought to light after Bradbury gadfly Robert Penney Jr. began probing her spending patterns, and retrieved bank statements from the city trash that documented Vollaire's purchases of luxury items on the city credit card.

The matter is being investigated by the district attorney's office.

On April 13, hours before auditors revealed their initial findings that receipts submitted by Vollaire to support three credit card payments were incomplete and doctored, she submitted a one-page resignation to Hon via fax.

The city rejected the terms of that resignation, however, and continued Monday to hammer out terms of a resignation with Vollaire's attorney. Negotiations will continue Monday. At issue are government benefits and the retirement package for Vollaire, who was city manager in Bradbury for two decades. Also to be discussed will be procedures for the city to secure restitution for any misappropriation of funds.

"The resignation she tendered was never acceptable," Dilkes said. "We responded by offering terms of our own, and those have not been accepted."

Vollaire's attorney, Raymond Fountain, was served April 20 with a notice of Vollaire's termination. That takes effect May 20 if a resignation agreement cannot be reached, Dilkes added.

Whether Vollaire resigns or is terminated, the city wants the assurance that she will not file a wrongful termination lawsuit, Fountain said.

"I don't anticipate that she will be making such a claim, but that (issue) will be decided on Monday," Fountain said. "I think everything will be resolved."

As potential restitution, Fountain has offered the city a lien against about $88,000 in pension money that the city holds in Vollaire's behalf. The city has not yet indicated whether that is acceptable.

Vollaire, who went on stress leave under a doctor's orders late last month, has returned from a visit to Texas but could not be reached for comment.

"It's a difficult time for her, as one would expect," Fountain said. "She is cooperative with her lawyer, and, hopefully, remains so with her employers."

In a brief prepared statement after Monday's special City Council meeting, Hon said, "While the losses appear to be significant in amount, the city is still in good financial condition."

Bradbury, the San Gabriel Valley's most affluent city, enjoys a healthy budget surplus: According to city officials, the general fund balance tops $1 million. The 1992-93 budget is $384,000.

In other matters Monday, the City Council voted unanimously to hire Keene N. Wilson, a former assistant city manager for Glendora, as interim city manager.

Wilson, in a gesture that Bradbury officials say heralds a new era of open government and citizen participation, was selected by a seven-member interview committee of two council members and five residents, including Penney.

The contract will extend for 90 days and calls for a $5,000 monthly salary, Dilkes said.

Wilson, 45, said the job presents a challenge he is looking forward to. Within the next few months, the city must work to update its general plan and draw up next year's budget, he said. The community uproar over alleged misconduct by Vollaire will require special finesse on his part, Wilson added.

"I think it will be important to demonstrate professional management practices and sound financial practices, which is something I would do under any circumstances," he said. "But here, I think it's particularly important."

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