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H.B. city manager says San Bernardino books were balanced during his tenure

Fred Wilson, formerly the city manager of San Bernardino for 12 years, speaks out amid allegations of falsified records in that city.

July 16, 2012|By Mona Shadia
(Courtesy City of…)

Huntington Beach City Manager Fred Wilson stood by his tenure at the city of San Bernardino following allegations that, for more than a decade, administrators there presented falsified records to hide budget problems.

"I think the allegations are really baseless, and I'm confident that my record will stand," he said in a phone interview last week.

Wilson worked for San Bernardino for 21 years, 12 as city manager. He left in 2008 to take the top administrative post in Huntington Beach.

The San Bernardino City Council voted July 10 to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection during a special council meeting, which can be viewed online on the city's website.

Interim City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller said during the meeting that the city has an immediate problem with cash flow and is in imminent danger of not being able to pay its employees.

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San Bernardino's finances reached a critical point as it continued to bring in less revenue due to the downturn of the economy while the cost of programs and services outweighed what it brought in, Travis-Miller said.

Although Wilson left the San Bernardino city manager position four years ago, he was dragged into the city's current financial drama after City Atty.

James Penman claimed that for the last 16 years, top administrators have been presenting inaccurate budgets to the mayor and council.

Penman said that in 13 of those 16 years, the documents were altered to show that city coffers were not empty.

"We have now learned that for 13 of the last 16 years, the documents presented to the mayor and council were falsified, that for 13 of the last 16 years, the documents showed that the city was in the black when in 13 of those 16 years, the city was actually in the red," Penman said during the meeting. "The mayor and council were not given the accurate documents."

Wilson said he couldn't speak to those allegations, nor to what Penman was referring during the meeting. He cited a Los Angeles Times article that references Travis-Miller saying the budget was presented as balanced the past two years when, in reality, it was not. However, Wilson left the city four years ago.

"When I was there, every budget was balanced, and more important, it was audited with no issues," he said.

During the July 10 meeting, Penman, who has been San Bernardino's city attorney for the last 25 years, did not provide evidence showing how those documents were falsified. A call to his office was not returned last week.

Wilson said that during his tenure, Penman never shared any concerns about the possibility of budget documents being fabricated.

mona.shadia@latimes.com

Twitter: @MonaShadia

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