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Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Money Tree

We know there's no such thing as a Money Tree but watching how Priority One Credit Union's Board of Directors spends money might lead one to conclude that they credit union has a secret cache that is enabling what on the surface looks like, unnecessary spending. But how is this possible when the credit union's reported Net Income continues to decrease in the millions of dollars? 

Some of the credit union's Board Directors are taking advantage of the free "perks" offered to them by President Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. Yes, perks. Directors of all credit unions serve on a strictly voluntarily basis and sometimes travel out of town on what is touted as credit union business and education. The cost of airfare, hotel accommodations and food are paid by the credit union. This is neither unusual or unethical. 

However, recently, we learned that the Directors may not actually be participating in either business or education during their out-of-town excursions. In fact, their spending habits while traveling are setting a horrendous example for a credit union that allegedly can help improve and enhance any member's financial well-being. 


Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, has far exceeded her state-mandated authority since Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. was appointed President on January 1, 2007. Mrs. Harris-Brooks attempted to exceed her authority while William E. Harris was President, however, Mr. Harris did not tolerate her attempted efforts to subjugate him and quickly and effectively shut her down. 

She has, however, succeeded in exceeding her authority at the credit union, in part because she single-handedly led a small contingent who succeeded in reinstating the President after he was suspended (with pay) following accusations that he allegedly sexually harassed a former employee. For all intents and purposes, President Wiggington now owes Mrs. Harris-Brooks for not only reinstating him but for squashing the evidence that proved he sexually harassed a former employee. 

We don't believe Mrs. Harris-Brooks successful reinstatement of the President was motivated by kindness or a genuine belief that he was innocent of the charges.  To the contrary, Mrs. Harris-Brooks isn't so dull as not to understand the evidence that was provided by an investigator and which provided Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. was guilty of sexually harassing a former employee.  Mrs. Harris-Brooks fully comprehends that the termination of Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. could have resulted in an end to her control over the credit union. Its also unlikely, that another President would have tolerated her need to control all things. 

According to a report compiled by the World Council of Credit Unions, the Directors of a credit union's Board have both the authority and responsibility to direct and control the direction and affairs of the credit union for the purpose of providing effective and efficient management over all operations. It is also advisable that Directors possess a background in business management. What's more, the Board should never rely on operational management to interpret financial data. 

At Priority One Credit Union the Board has proven it is unable to properly direct the affairs of the credit union. What's more, since January 1, 2007, the date Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. began his appointment as President, the Board has consistently failed to provide effective and efficient operational management. What's more, with exception of Joe Marchica, not one of the Directors possess a background in business management and certainly not at a level that would qualify them to serve as Directors of any board. And Priority One's board is wholly dependent on President Wiggington to interpret the credit union's financial data. 

The fact that the Board elected Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. to succeed William E. Harris speaks volumes of their inability to enact decisions that benefit the credit union, members and employees. Certainly the credit union's ongoing decline attests to the level of incompetence permeating the credit union's Board. 

Mrs. Harris-Brooks has periodically disclosed that she worked in marketing while employed by the U.S. Postal Service though to be absolutely correct, she worked in the postal service's retail sector. Quite frankly, Mrs. Harris-Brooks does not possess the education or abilities to conduct a study of the credit union's demographically varied marketplaces. Mrs. Harris-Brooks should be asked to provide evidence that proves she is qualified  to study and understand the credit union's diverse marketplaces. 

We also recently learned, that Mrs. Harris-Brooks has requested that she be allowed to visit the Burbank, Van Nuys and Valencia branches in the capacity of a secret shopper. Can't the credit union afford contracting the services of a company that actually specializes in conducting this type of research? 


In 2007, when an investigation proved that AVP, Liz Campos, had been kiting using three checking accounts held at three different institutions including Priority One, Mrs. Harris-Brooks became incensed and publicly chased Director, David L. Davidson, for delivering an anonymous letter mailed to his residence to the credit union's attorney, William Adler. The letter exposed Mrs. Campos of perpetrating a violation of federal law. 

Mrs. Harris-Brooks told Mr. Davidson that he was never to deliver letters exposing wrong
doing allegedly committed at the credit union, to the credit union's attorney. She explained that all investigations would be conducted by the Board without involvement of the credit union's attorney. 

Mrs. Campos violated federal law. She should have been arrested and prosecuted but Mrs. Campos was a friend of President Wiggington and escaped prosecution. Mr. Davidson appropriately delivered the letter to the credit union's legal counsel. After all, no one on the Board including Mrs. Harris-Brooks is qualified to conduct an investigation of any federal offense. Mrs. Harris-Brooks is also not an attorney. The Board does have one Director, O. Glen Saffold, who studied law but has failed to pass the California Bar Exam on several occasions. 

We believe Mrs. Harris-Brooks has deluded herself into believing that she is on par with paid Directors of banks like Chase and CITI. Realistically, Priority One's Directors have as much of a chance of serving on a bank's Board as we do of finding the Loch Ness monster in a bathtub.

Last year, the Board of Directors and some Supervisors, traveled to Hawaii and Las Vegas to allegedly attend educational classes and conferences. The credit union paid for airfare, hotel accommodations, and provided each Director a food allowance. Though every Director and Supervisor is aware that business is in a state of decline and knows the President has yet to find a solution that could reverse this cycles, they traveled to Hawaii and Las Vegas but many chose not to attend classes or conferences opting instead to sightsee and spend their daily allowance in bars. If the Directors are so undisciplined that they chose not to attend scheduled classes and conferences and chose to spend the money allotted to them on non-business related activities, then how can they be expected to protect credit union and member assets? 

Last year, President Wiggington "gave" a refurbished credit union computer to Director, Thomas Gathers. Isn't this a perk? What's more, the President has authorized that all Directors and Supervisors receive free Internet access, allowing them remote access to the credit union's network. Not only is this inappropriate but might it not be a breach of security?

As disclosed in our last post, President Wiggington has boasted that he never flies by coast because the seats are uncomfortable and there isn't sufficient space for him to stretch his legs. This seems an odd choice in light of the fact he's admitted that business is in decline.

Last year, the President and CFO flew to Chicago on business. Upon his return to South Pasadena, the President boasted that he danced with a "fat girl. I could tell she wanted me." 

Last year, the President ordered that access to the addresses for all Directors be blocked to keep employees from seeing these. The order followed the revelation that his hand-picked AVP, Liz Campos, violated federal law and kited using checking accounts held at three different financial institutions including Priority One.  

Last December 2008, President Wiggington met with Mrs. Harris-Brooks to discuss the upcoming elections scheduled to take place during the month of April 2009. They agreed that the Board's current Directors must remain unchanged. The current Directors are all loyal to Mrs. Harris-Brooks, continually conceding ot her every whim. 

The two agreed not to publish notice of the upcoming election in only the quarterly newsletter which is mailed to all members. Instead the notice which includes an invitation to members to nominate themselves to run for a seat on the Board, would only be published in the quarterly newsletter which is only mailed to members who have a checking account thus excluding the larger sector of members who only have a savings account. Though the notice and invitation are mandated under state law, the President and Board Chair chose to disrupt the electoral process. Can you imagine what these two could accomplish if they could divert their wicked tendencies to actually do things that benefit the credit union, members and employees? If the President and Board Chair are going to continue being unethical we suggest they hone up on their skills and try to better camouflage their plots. 

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Anonymous said...

The DFI and NCUA would be very interested if you could provide evidence that Board members were going to seminars in Vegas and Hawaii (junkets) on the credit union's dime and you could prove they did not attend any of the sessions or perhaps one session at a 4 day conference. If they only went sight-seeing and ate and drank like pigs at a trough that would be outright fraud. But you'd have to have documentation and witnesses. I would think it would be tough to prove they did not attend any of the teaching parts of the conference.

How much in food and booze were the officials spending daily? Was it $200-$300 per day, per person? I bet they would not spend that kind of money if it was out of their own pocket. Were spouses allowed to attend on the CU's dime? Those flights and extra food would be expensive for a CU posting red-ink. Are receipts required or do they get a flat-daily fee? Does Priority One have a policy covering conference expenses? A standard food allowance in Vegas might be $75 per day. Were Vegas shows picked up by the CU, too? It's standard business practice to provide receipts.

If the conference was 4 days did the CU pick up the tab for a 7-day stay in Hawaii - fraud again.

Anonymous said...

Can you get how much was paid for each board member who attended the Vegas Conference?

For a 4-day Vegas conference how much did the Board Chair Diedra Harris-Brooks charge to the CU beyond the cost of the room? Were the charges out of the norm? My guess is she spent a bundle well above what a Postal worker would spend on a normal vacation.

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