Public corruption is nothing new (see City of Bell), but there’s been a spate of recent cases that suggest that rank-and-file public employees are going to new lengths in their efforts to fleece taxpayers.
Exhibit A comes from Orange County, where a federal Grand Jury will be looking into claims that an unnamed court worker decided to settle more than 1,000 traffic cases on his or her own, for a price of course. The worker allegedly targeted Latino defendants, offering to “fix” their DUI arrests and other infractions. The alleged scam went on for six years as the former clerk used a computer to change court records.
Then there’s the case of Thatcus Carl Richard and the L.A. Department of Water and Power. Richard pleaded not guilty last month to taking more than $4 million in public funds. Richard was in charge of managing video and audio jobs for the utility. But he allegedly had his own business on the side that was getting much of the work. Prosecutors say the scheme went on for nearly 20 years.
Meanwhile, the city of Pasadena just announced that it will sue former public works employee Danny Wooten. He’s accused of stealing more than $6 million in public cash from a fund that was meant to pay putting overhead utility lines underground. Much of the money allegedly went to a Pomona church where Wooten was a pastor. Prosecutors say Wooten was writing checks and forging signatures for years before any at the city caught on.
Today, former State Senator Leland Yee is could plead guilty to federal corruption charges in San Francisco. Among other things, he’s accused of taking bribes in exchange for legislative favors and conspiring to smuggle guns into the country from the Philippines. Another former state Senator – Montebello’s Ronald Calderon – is due to go on trial in September for accepting bribes, although that trial could be delayed.