[Kern County] Former general manager of community services district in Tehachapi charged with misappropriation of public funds

Blog note: this article references a 2016 Kern County Grand Jury report about the community services district.

Prosecutors filed felony charges Thursday against the former general manager of the Mountain Meadows Community Services District in Tehachapi who they say misappropriated more than $140,000 of public funds.

Richard E. Williford is charged with 18 felony counts of unlawful appropriation of public funds and six felony counts of entering into contracts with the district in which he had a personal financial interest, according to the District Attorney's office.

No arraignment date has been set. 

Williford said Thursday he was unaware of the charges. He denied any wrongdoing.

"It’s not true," he said. "Of course it’s not true. But they’ve got their goal, that's obvious."

Mountain Meadows was established in 1970 and consists of 697 parcels just south of Highline Road, between Dennison Road and Curry Street.

Each parcel owner pays a $200 annual assessment fee to help maintain the 27 miles of roads, along with maintenance issues. Residents complained in early 2015 that those things weren't being done, and most of the district's equipment was either missing or in disrepair.

Among the top findings of a 2016 grand jury report into the district were that from July 7, 2007 until Feb. 17, 2015, the former general manager — Williford was not identified by name in the report — committed the district to expenditures amounting to $302,693.51 with multiple businesses that were owned by himself or members of his family.

For the period between Jan. 7, 2009 and July 30, 2013, while he served on the Board of Directors, he was paid $29,182 by the district as a consultant and for engineering fees, another apparent violation of California Government Code pertaining to special districts, the grand jury wrote.

The grand jury report also stated that beginning in May 2014, the former general manager began signing district checks by his own authority without a second signature of a board member. All checks recovered after that date only had his signature.

The grand jury investigation began after Williford filed a complaint in March 2015 "to confront what he perceived was Kern County government overreach against his total control over Mountain Meadow(s) Community Service(s) District," the report stated.

February 8, 2018

The Bakersfield Californian