Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wagner Accuses Co-op President Of Coverup

By John Severance

SOCORRO – Trustee Charlie Wagner alleges board president Paul Bustamate knew of the financial irregularities back in May and tried to cover it up. And Wagner also insisted that the co-op president be recalled at the next regularly scheduled meeting in September.
And in still another twist, attorney Dennis Francish said he has been in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In an email, Wagner, wrote, “President Paul Bustamante was informed of the accounting irregularities by (general manager Polo) Pineda and (accountant Kathy) Torres no later than May 13, 2010, according to the auditors at BSG&M.
“On July 22, 2010, Attorney Dennis Francish, writing in regard to the EEOC complaint filed by Ms. Kathy Torres July 7, 2010, Charge No. 846-2010-22140, advised the Board of SEC to consider “offering Kathy Torres an employment contract for a period of years. The contract can be worked out by Ms. Torres, her attorney, the Board Committee and the cooperative Attorney, subject to Board approval,”
Wagner continued, “Had Mr. Francish known of the report given to Bustamante on May 17, 2010 by the auditors, would he have suggested extending her employment for a period of years?
“I would answer yes under two conditions: 1. If he was in collusion with Pineda, Torres, Bustamante and some other Trustees to file a false EEOC and other reports of discrimination against me. 2. If he was in collusion with Bustamante to cover-up the abuse committed by (former general manager Polo) Pineda and Torres.
“Remember, if it had not been for the whistleblowers Bustamante may have continued to conceal the auditor's revelations indefinitely. During the period of concealment records were being shredded and possible evidence was destroyed.
Wagner then suggested in the email that the board consider recalling Bustamante by roll call at the next regular meeting on Sept. 22.
Wagner said Wednesday, “As soon as he got the information on May 13 from the auditors, Bustamante should have informed the board, the attorney, RUS and our insurance company.”
Francish, meanwhile, said he did not know about the financial irregularities until the anonymous whistleblower letter surfaced and the inquiry committee was formed in early August.
Francish said there was no way he would have advised the board to give Torres an employment contract if he had known about the financial irregularities.
“Don Wolberg told me about it (the financial irregularities),” Francish said. “It was back in early August.”
When asked if he thought that Bustamante should have notified the board or the attorney back in May of the financial irregularities, Francish said, “No comment.”
Last week, the board terminated Pineda’s and Torres’ employment because of the financial irregularities.
Wagner said those loans were made against the general fund of the co-op not the pension plan.
District Attorney Clint Wellborn said his office is not looking into the matter.
“As far as I know, a crime has not been committed,” Wellborn said. “It’s a company matter and they are dealing with it.”
Francish, meanwhile, said, “I got a call from an FBI agent in the past week and people are looking into it. They wanted to know if federal funds were being borrowed. I told them I didn’t know. That’s an accounting thing.”
Bustamante, meanwhile, responded to Wagner’s accusations by email Monday. (The email was printed exactly as written and sent by Bustamante.)
The SEC president said the financial irregularities uncovered by the auditors also were known by board members Luis Aguilar and Milton Ulibarri.
“The auditors called me to see the financial irregularities, that they encountered on their last days of the audit on the two employees at that time they were not exact on the figures and were not sure on what was paid until their final draft of the audit and more investigating,” Bustamante wrote.
Wagner also said the two board members should have come forward at that time as well.
Bustamante said he was going to tell the board on June 23, but that was the meeting that was adjourned right after the pledge of allegiance.
“I was to inform the entire board at that meeting and have the auditors meet in July with there final draft of the SEC's audit. With the June 23 meeting being abruptly ended that postponed the auditors till August. It would have been set for July, but of course not to repeat myself the audit would have been conducted in July and you and the entire board be informed in June’s meeting with proper documentation.
”On SEC's meeting July 28,2010 the majority of the board asked me Board President Paul Bustamante and to have me ask Eileen Latasa to meet with Kathy Torres the following day July, 29 2010 for a Mediation on the EEOC complaint.”
Bustamante wrote it was the same day that Torres was to meet that “Mr. Wagner would not quit your harassment and probably never will correct your behavior because you were told numerous times by the board president about your loose tongue.”
Bustamante also wrote that he had a discussion with the manager (Pineda) immediately after meeting with the auditors.
“ I said if the money is owed it goes to SEC. I, Mr. Wagner was able to collect that debt and save SEC a loss. If the majority of the SEC Board of Trustees wants to recall me as President I will respect their wishes.”
Wagner then responded to Bustamante’s email.
“You had a duty as soon as the auditors advised you of possible wrongdoing by Pineda and Torres to notify the attorney, the insurance and bonding companies, and all of the board of trustees. Instead, you immediately notified one of the suspects.
“At the regular meeting, May 26, 2010 you could have announced to all of the board and the attorney what the auditors reported to you about the possible crime. May 26, 2010 was 13 days after you had received the auditor's report. What happened at the June 23, meeting is irrelevant. You had already concealed the possible crime from those who had a right to know for 42 days. How could you have known whistleblowers would blow your failure to disclose?.
“On May 17th, three days after you revealed the auditors' information to the General Manager, payments to the abused account began.
“On July 7, an EEOC claim was filed and an uninformed and unsuspecting attorney, Dennis Fransich, made a recommendation for consideration by an uninformed board to give a multi-year contract to someone who you knew to be suspected of a possible crime.
“You may have the support of the board's majority which is irrelevant when dealing with ethical and legal decisions and matters. As President of the SEC you are required to do the right thing in the best interest of the cooperative's 10,000 members. Instead you did what was in the best interest of the suspects.”

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