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Ventura County supervisor alleges misuse of funds

March 20, 2007|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County Supervisor John Flynn accused his board colleagues Monday of misappropriating money that should have gone toward a sewer-conversion project in El Rio, a small blue-collar community north of Oxnard.

Flynn, whose 5th District includes Oxnard and El Rio, said county officials reneged on a four-year promise to provide as much as $4 million to convert households in El Rio from using septic tanks to sewer lines. Instead, only $1.65 million was spent on the conversion.

Fellow supervisors disputed Flynn's accusations, describing his claims as another example of political grandstanding.

"Once again, Supervisor Flynn refuses to recognize or acknowledge facts as put forth by county counsel, that these were unrestricted funds," Supervisor Kathy Long said. "This is a political fight that's he's having with Supervisor [Steve] Bennett; that's all this is."

At issue was the Board of Supervisors vote on Dec. 19 approving recommendations by the county's Watershed Protection District to spend nearly $5.2 million in surplus money on priority projects in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and at Matilija Dam near Ojai.

The county counsel's office ruled earlier that this pot of money could be spent anywhere in the district.

But Flynn insists the money, particularly $1.13 million earmarked for Matilija Dam, should instead go to the El Rio sewer project.

The supervisors decided instead to let El Rio borrow the money from existing reserves.

Bennett, whom Flynn has clashed with publicly on various county issues, said the veteran supervisor neglected to tell dozens of El Rio residents who attended Flynn's news conference Monday that he also had approved the distribution of the surplus funds.

"This is classic John Flynn. He voted for it, and now he's trying to inflame the people of El Rio that 'the terrible people on the board' have done something to them," Bennett said. "If it's so inappropriate, why did he vote for it?"

Flynn said he cast his vote with the majority hoping the panel would later consider setting aside $1.1 million to supply El Rio with matching funds to secure state grants.

greg.griggs@latimes.com

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