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Wednesday, October 7, 2015



This month's post, returns to the subject of Priority One Credit Union's legal entanglements. Currently, the credit union is involved in litigating four lawsuits. The first is the lawsuit filed
by it's insurance carrier, CUMIS Insurance Society, Inc. and which accuses the credit union's former external auditor, Turner, Warren, Hwang, and Conrad ("TWHC"), of breach of contract when it performed several annual audits which violated established auditing standards. The alleged breaches allowed several thefts totaling more than $1 million and occurring during the years 2010 through 2012, to go undetected.

A second lawsuit was filed by TWHC against Priority One Credit Union and a third lawsuit- a counter-suit, was filed earlier this year by the credit union against its former external auditor, TWHC. .

A fourth lawsuit was against the credit union in late 2014, by its former contracted automobile broker, Lewis Seiden dba Auto Alliance ("Auto Alliance"). When we last reported upon the lawsuit filed by Auto Alliance, the credit union had filed a motion requesting dismissal of the Plaintiff's complaint on the basis that the auto broker's allegations lacked merit to justify it's suit. Unfortunately, for Priority One, the court did disagreed and the credit union will proceed to court to fend off allegations it breached its agreement with the broker. We will elaborate further about the latest action initiated by both the automobile broker and the credit union.

In the decades before January 1, 2007, the actual date when Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. was appointed President, the credit union was never sued by former employees or business associates. The current batch of lawsuits all stem from the decision by the President and Board of Directors to circumvent credit union policies and state and federal laws. It is these decisions which have forced Priority One to dig deep into its coffers, dredging up monies needed to pay for outrageously expensive litigation. From 2010 through 2013, Priority One paid in excess of $500,000 in legal fees. Employee lawsuits filed between 2010 through 2013 were eventually settled by the credit union to avoid costly and potentially embarrassing court trials. The amount currently being spent on litigation will probably surpass the $500,000 previously spent and brings into question the veracity of Priority One's Mission Statement which declares that the credit union is able "To help our member-owners and employees achieve financial fitness. We are committed to providing quality products and services that help you win with money" 

Does anyone really believe that Priority One Credit Union can help member-owners and employees achieve financial fitness when its few profits are being spent on expensive litigation? 

Business Development Resuscitated

In our last post, we revealed that the President in yet another desperate move to acquisition new business, reinstated a former Business Development Representative ("BDR") who has been an employee of the credit union for over 40 years. The President's latest decision is another contradiction of his 2010 initiative which began by placing stringent restrictions on the business development team and decision in 2012, which completely dismantled the business development team until January 15, 2013, when he appointed, Joseph Garcia, to serve as sole BDR for the three-branch credit union. 

Despite a well-documented record of failures committed by Mr. Garcia during the years of 2010-2012, the President deemed it prudent to appoint him in charge of the credit union's business development endeavors. The President's decision was also enthusiastically supported by Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, and Executive Vice President, Rodger Smock, both of who have continually enabled the President's history of horrendous busines decisions. As reported last month, it was not until July of this year that the not-so-astute President discovered Mr.Garcia was not visiting businesses whose names were referenced in each of his monthly production reports. 

The first problem with the President's latest escapade is that it's logistically marred. The credit union's territory extends from the Riverside/San Diego County border and north to the Santa Clarita Valley. Its a large and impressive territory comprised of diverse demographics and despite its vast size, Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. has deemed it reasonable to assign a single business development representative to manage the entire territory. Does he really believe a single individual can, without assistance, manage the vast territory? Apparently, he does. The president may be oblivious to the fact that he has spent the last eight years neglecting the credit union's relationship to its members and in particular, its relationship with members who are employed by the United States Postal Service ("USPS").

If Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. has proven anything its that he is no skilled tactician and that his so-called business decisions are not based on information derived from surveys, focus group assessments, and careful studies of the credit union's marketplaces but rather nothing more than his chronic, unfounded whims.


Apparently, both the President and Board have forgotten that as a non-profit, Priority One is required to satisfy certain public obligations which includes but is not limited to providing free services that contribute to the betterment of the communities served by the credit union. A search of their website and Facebook page fails to identify anything that the credit union has done to fulfill its social purpose. Evidently, the President who once aspired to turn Priority One into a bank has forgotten that following industry tenets:
  • Help people of modest means
  • Provide loans that are to be used for prudent purpose; and
  • Provide free financial education
So what positive social impact has Priority One has had upon the communities it serves? 


It's only been a few weeks since Executive Vice President, Rodger Smock, accompanied now former Vice President of Operations, Yvonne Boutte, to her desk located in the Credit Resolutions Department and watched while she retrieved her purse and a few possessions before quietly leaving the main branch without bidding adieu to her staff in the Call Center, Member Services, and Teller Departments. It was a quiet departure for a woman who demanded respect and subservience and yet, found it necessary to abuse and disparage staff. A few days following her departure, Executive Vice President, Rodger Smock, disclosed that Mrs. Boutte was ill and might be absent for a few weeks. Of course, this proved to be another shame excuse to deter attention from the fact that she was being scrutinized. Almost immediately following her departure, the credit union that has historically been lax about updating its webpage, removed Mrs. Boutte's name, as shown below, from their online list containing executive names and titles.   

Former Executive List

 Current Executive List

Its been a long while since we've conducted a search of Mrs. Boutte's name on the Internet, but we were curious to see if she might have moved quickly to amend any of her online biographies. Visiting her LinkedIn account, we discovered that she suffers from the same need exhibited by both President Wiggington and Vice President Smock, to exaggerate her work history. 

Mrs. Boutte took some poetic liberties when creating her biography. Though she correctly states she was hired to "create an in-house collections team", she is less than forthright when she states she wrote procedures. Her procedures were never ratified by the Board of Directors subsequently reducing her so-called procedures to mere notes. 

She also states her responsibilities included, "handling Card Services and the DMV function." We're completely at a loss to understand what she means by "handling." Mrs. Boutte did not perform Card Services Department procedures merely because she did not possess the ability to do so. The department which is actually a single desk., has an experienced Card Services Specialist. On a side note, in 2010, Mrs. Boutte ordered that the Card Services Specialist assist the collections department, a decision which is as absurd as anything concocted by President Wiggington, himself. 

Mrs. Boutte also oversaw DMV procedures though she was in no way a DMV Specialist. Furthermore, in 2009, the credit union ceased to have a DMV desk after Mrs. Boutte convinced then COO, Beatice Walker, that the DMV Specialist should be laid-off. 

Mrs. Boutte also attributes her purported successes to her "strong and effective leadership skills." The fact is, Mrs. Boutte was a polarizing presence at the credit union. She was known to be rude to employees and some members and like President Wiggington, she was a chronic violator of the credit union's policies. In 2012, she bullied a member who lodged a complaint with Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks and which accused the credit union of publishing information about her credit union automobile loan and disparaging statements about her person, on the Internet. The compliant was delegated to the President who then delegated it to Mrs. Boutte. Mrs. Boutte chose to be aggressive over prudent and impartial, provoking the member into filing a lawsuit which was later settled by the credit union. Evidently, Mrs. Boutte has a distorted view of what constitutes strong or effective leadership. 


- 2010 -

In early 2010, then COO, Beatrice Walker, launched an aggressive campaign, promoting her expertise as a Chief Operations Officer. She promised the Board of Directors and its Board Chair, the easily pliable, Diedra Harris-Brooks, convincing them that she would reduce spending and create profitable new streams of income. 

Hired on June 1, 2009, she spent much of her first three months of employment pandering to the Board and succeeding in bolling over Mrs. Harris-Brooks who literally granted Ms. Walker Carte' Blanche to implement whatever changes she deemed necessary to reverse the multitude of problems created by President Wiggington which had caused the credit union to lose its ability to generate the level of new business enjoyed prior to January 1, 2007, the date he began his appointment as President. . 

One of the many changes she made by Ms. Walker was introducing Auto Alliance to the credit union. Though Priority One had a long-time and highly successful relationship with Mike Martinez the owner of Universal Leasing and Sales, Ms. Walker issued an order to the Loan Department staff, advising them to refer all members seeking to purchase an automobile to Auto Alliance.  Furthermore, President Wiggington distanced himself from Universal Auto Leasing and Sales, became aloof and unfriendly. 

To aid success of Auto Alliance, Ms. Walker ordered placement of a desk in the Loan Department where a representative from Auto Alliance would sit and meet with members who were approved for an automobile loan. The plan might have worked had the consumer loan department staff not continued referring members to Universal Auto Sales. What's more, President Wiggington made no effort to ensure the staff was referring members to Auto Alliance. 

By mid-2010, Ms. Walker's relationship with the Board had deteriorated to the point that she began publicly describing the Directors as "uneducated" and "ignorant." In July 2011, Ms. Walker was terminated and within a few weeks, Auto Alliance's representative vacated his desk. 




On June 24, 2015, Priority One's attorney, John C. Steele, filed a motion requesting the court's approval which would allow the credit union to join CUMIS Insurance Society, Inc.'s lawsuit, however and as usual, litigation has not been without incident. 

Priority One's attorney had previously filed a motion requesting dismissal of the lawsuit filed by Lewis Seiden dba Auto Alliance but the court deemed the Plaintiff's allegations possessed sufficient grounds to proceed to trial. With the credit union's first course of action having failed, on September 26, 2015, their attorney filed a Stipulation and Protective Order- Confidential Designation Only. The order seeks an order by the court to prohibit the publication of any documents deemed and labeled "confidential". The defendant and plaintiff have apparently comet to an agreement that it is crucial to protect the confidentiality of certain documents that may contain sensitive information such as trade secrets and financial data which is not intended for viewing by the general public or competitors and which may be of a proprietary nature. 

The filing of the motion is not unusual but it comes only a few weeks after we learned that President Wiggington expressed concern that documents presented during the upcoming trial could find their way to the Internet and adversely impact his very public reputation. Frankly, at this point, the President should have moved beyond being embarrassed. Since 2007, evidence was exposed that he sexually harassed a female employee and that while serving as Vice President of Operations, he ordered repossession of a BMW, his favorite car, and transferred ownership to himself without paying a cent for the vehicle. There are also the multitude of allegations documented in complaints filed by former employees and one former member, describing egregious violations of state and federal laws perpetrated by and under President Wiggington.  

Though the attorney's for the Plaintiff and Defendant have signed the motion, we can't ignore the timing in which this is taking place. The motion was filed just weeks after President Wiggington expressed concerns that documents presented in court could find their way to the Internet. The lawsuit filed by Auto Alliance also names Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. a defendant. This, by the way, is the second time since 2013, that the President has been named a defendant. The first incident occurred in the lawsuit filed by the last Branch Manager of the now defunct Valencia office. At the time, the plaintiff accused Human Resources and President Wiggington of allowing her state and federal rights to be violated when they knowingly allowed her to be harassed, sexually harassed, retaliated against, and stalked by former COO, Beatrice Walker. 

In 2013, the President spent an inordinate amount of time walking about the South Pasadena office, divulging confidential information about each of the lawsuits filed by former employees and boasting that three settlements entered into by the credit union were so insignificant in amount that they were inconsequential to the declining credit union. At the time, his breeches of confidentiality even prompted the credit union's attorney to issue a warning to Board Chair., Diedra Harris-Brooks, urging that the President desist from verbalizing information about cases that had been settled and about those which remained in litigation. 

During litigation of the lawsuit filed by the Valencia Branch Manager, the credit union's attorney contacted the Plaintiff's attorney by telephone and informed her that if President Wiggington's name was not removed as a Defendant from the lawsuit, he would file a motion excusing the President from testifying because he was suffering from cancer and was undergoing arduous medical treatments. Evidently, the President has since made an almost full recovery immediately following removal of his name.

Apparently, in 2015 things have changed for President Wiggington.  It appears he will be unable to use his former illness as an excuse to escape from testifying. What's more, he's become extremely concerned about guarding the confidentiality of certain documents that will be presented during the trial. Though we understand that it is important to protect sensitive information from being viewed by the public, we can't ignore the fact that the President recently expressed concern about stopping the disclosure of certain information that could adversely impact his reputation and which could reveal things about his character and about his mode of administration. And though on some level we can empathize with the President's concerns, the fact is this is a ruthless man who has over the past 8 years violated policies and laws with no concern for the consequences this could have upon the credit union and its ability to conduct business. The President should be concerned by the upcoming trials and in particular, the lawsuit filed by Auto Alliance which names him a defendant. He will be unable to hide behind the Board of Directors and its Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, and though the motion to protect the publication of certain documents, the motion does not cover all documents that might be presented and produced during the trial. 

Hiding information isn't new for President Wiggington. Here are two instances in which he has purposely withheld information from public viewing:
  • In 2010, he ordered that members not be provided copies of Priority One's Monthly Balance Sheet/Income Statements though state law stipulates that the reports must be provided to active members who request copies of these. His directive remains in effect today.  
  • This year, he and Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, decided to stop publication of the credit union's annual report on Priority One's website. 
The President has always hoped people would accept his verbalized assurances and disclosures about the credit union's financial standing, at face value. Unfortunately, his statements have continually been challenged by the credit union's own financial statements including its quarterly Financial Performance Reports filed with the National Credit Union Association. 

Another fact is that anyone attending any of the trials the credit union is currently involved in, will have an opportunity to hear testimonies and observe the presentation of evidence that will finally reveal how Priority One chooses to do business. Though their is no arguing that President Wiggington is a man who chooses to orchestrate his activities in the darkest recesses of the credit union, far from prying eyes, a trial will provide transparency and provide a wonderful opportunity to bring into the light the President's methodologies. 

President Wiggington may soon discover that the motion signed by the plaintiff and defendant will not serve to stop testimonies from being heard in court. Will Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. forge a story that exonerates him from all wrong doing and which serves to convince a jury that Priority One acted responsibly and wholly honestly in their dealings with Auto Alliance? 

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