BRADBURY — In court documents filed last week, attorneys for former Bradbury City Manager Aurora (Dolly) Vollaire say city officials knew how she was spending city money and should be held accountable for Vollaire's actions.
The city sued Vollaire in Pasadena Superior Court last month, seeking at least $84,000 in restitution for money she allegedly misspent over the past decade, much of it on personal luxury items.
In an answer to the city's civil complaint, Vollaire's attorneys, the City of Industry law firm of R. Zaiden Corrado, denied she misspent city funds. If those allegations prove true, however, the blame should be shared by city officials and others who "aided and abetted" Vollaire, the answer states. Vollaire's attorneys also allege that city officials might have information implicating other people in any misspending.
City officials declined to comment Tuesday because the matter is being litigated.
Vollaire, who was city manager for 20 years and also served as city clerk, planning director and finance director, was fired in March after a city investigation found that she used taxpayer money for personal purchases that included fine china and designer sunglasses.
According to the city's lawsuit and a Times investigation, Vollaire spent city money from a petty cash account, her personal credit card account and several other city accounts for personal purchases beginning in 1983, altering city documents and misleading city officials about her actions. She also misused the city credit card beginning in 1986, when it was issued to her, the suit says.
The full City Council approved many of the checks spent on luxury items, and the mayor and city treasurer signed all final checks. City officials have also said they gave Vollaire presigned checks, which she used for shopping trips to the Price Club. According to an outside audit, she spent at least $8,500 there on items not related to city business.
The city's financial books were stuffed with receipts, many of them cut to remove the vendor name but some bearing the insignia of posh department stores and boutiques. No one ever checked the receipts, city officials have said. Yearly audits by the Pasadena CPA firm of McGladry & Pullen also failed to turn up any spending irregularities.
City officials have repeatedly said they had no knowledge of Vollaire's spending habits, and trusted that all the money was for city-related purchases.
Vollaire's answer to the city's complaint contests that view.
"What it's saying is that any of the actions that she took were taken with full knowledge of the City Council and the city attorney, and if not full knowledge then at least knowledge," said attorney Randall Nakashima, who is handling Vollaire's case with lead attorney Charles R. Martin.
"If they had that knowledge, and the council was her boss, then she was acting on behalf of the city, or at least she thought she was."
The answer also alleges that other people "participated" in the alleged wrongdoing with Vollaire, but Nakashima declined to identify anyone. He said no legal action would be taken involving those people until the district attorney's office concludes criminal proceedings against Vollaire.
Vollaire's attorneys also claim that the city is obligated to provide her with legal counsel. In addition, they ask that Bradbury City Atty. C. Edward Dilkes be removed as attorney in the civil lawsuit because he had knowledge of Vollaire's actions while she worked for the city and she confided in him.
Dilkes refused to comment on most aspects of the litigation. He said the city does not feel he needs to be removed from the case, but is considering it to reduce the cost of litigation.
On Nov. 2, Mayor Audrey Hon and Councilman Thomas Melbourn were recalled after residents in their districts launched campaigns claiming that the lawmakers should have noticed something was awry with city finances.
Recall proponents said Hon, who was mayor for a little over a year, bore particular responsibility because mayoral duties include signing checks and approving the final lists of checks after the full council has reviewed them.
Neither current Mayor Audrey Chamberlain, Hon, Melbourn, nor Councilman John H. Richards--who was mayor for six years before Hon assumed the seat--could be reached for comment about Vollaire's answer to the city lawsuit.
Councilwoman Beatrice LaPisto-Kirtley said she could not comment on the litigation. In previous comments, however, LaPisto-Kirtley adamantly stated that some council members were in the dark about certain city financial practices.
For example, she said, some council members had no idea that Vollaire was provided with presigned checks, or that the officials who signed the checks were not inspecting receipts.
Richards has said he presigned checks on a regular basis during his six years as mayor because he was often out of town. While he placed his signature on the blank checks, he said his was always the first signature. The city treasurer provided the second signature and Vollaire's was the third.