Killing the Messengers
On Monday, January 14, 2008, a long-time member visited Priority One Credit Union's South Pasadena branch to deposit money. After transacting the deposit, she walked into the Member Services Department and sat talking to Branch Manager, Gema Pleitez.
Several minutes later, two members heard a baby crying and discovered to their surprise, that a baby had been left locked in an automobile parked in the credit union's customer parking lot. The member's hurried upstairs and reported what they'd seen to employees in the Loan Department.
The employees immediately began asking members if they'd left a baby in a locked car and eventually, Yolanda Gallegos, a member and owner of the car was located. Ms. Gallegos nonchalantly stated that she was baby-sitting and would be returning to her car in a few minutes. She then turned and resumed her conversation with the Branch Manager. Because President Wiggington and Senior Vice President, Rodger Smock, were both out of the office, the VISA Card Supervisor apprised Training and Education Manager, Robert West, about the incident. Mr.West seemed genuinely concerned and said, "Call the police."
The police were called and a few minutes later, the police and firemen entered the parked lot. The firemen extricated the baby from the locked vehicle and Yolanda was placed under arrest.
After the police were called, Senior Vice President, Rodger Smock, returned to the branch. The VISA Card Specialist informed him of the incident.
On Wednesday, January 16, 2008, President Wiggington returned to work and upon being advised of the incident, exploded into a tirade, yelling and accusing the employees who called the police of acting inappropriately. He declared that the member might now file a lawsuit against the credit union, despite the very obvious fact that Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. is not an attorney and has a well documented record of not conducted research.
Aaron Cavazos, the then AVP of Lending attempted to diffuse the situation and asked the President to try and regain his composure but the President lashed out telling the AVP not to tell him what to do. Mr. Cavazos left the President's office, going directly to Human Resources and informing Rodger Smock that "Charles is furious about how the incident was handled." Mr. Smock went to Mr. Wiggington's office but when he tried to reason with the President, he was told to "shut-up."
The President's anger worsened when he learned that Loan Officer, Pattie Lopez, had confided to the President's administrative assistant that the member, Ms. Gallegos, was to be arraigned in court on Thursday, January 17th. Incensed, President Wiggington yelled that he was "tired of Pattie's gossiping" and promised to "deal with her shortly." Does anyone think that the President's uncontrolled verbalizations might constitute a breach of confidentiality?
On Thursday, January 17, 2008, shortly after 8:30 a.m., Pattie Lopez, completely unaware of what Mr. Wiggington had said about her, asked him if he had been told about Ms. Gallegos' arraignment, scheduled to take place later that day. He replied calmly that he was unaware but after Mrs. Lopez walked away, he told Rodger Smock that he intended to "put an end to all conversations about Ms. Gallegos."
At 9 a.m. he called AVP, Aaron Cavazos, and told him to bring Mrs. Lopez to his office. During the meeting he threatened to terminate Mrs. Lopez if she ever mentioned the incident again.
Following the meeting with Mrs. Lopez, he asked Mr. Cavazos to bring the Card Specialist to his office. He warned the Card Specialist that she would be terminated if another baby is ever left unattended in a car and if the police were called.
After the meeting he called Rodge Smock and asked him to accompany Branch Manager, Gema Pleitez to his office. He also threatened to terminate Mrs. Pleitez should she choose to call the police on a member.
After the meeting, he again called Mr. Cavazos and asked that he bring Lead Consumer Loan Officer, Georgina Duenas, to his office. Mrs. Duenas refused to go to the President's office. When informed that Mrs. Duenas refused to go to his office, the President called her at her desk. Mrs. Duenas later told co-workers that the President merely reminded her that she is a supervisor and that she is expected to comply to all credit union policies. He also told her that were other alternatives available other than calling the police, though he failed to specify which alternatives were available.
Each employee received a verbal warning which alleged they gossiped about the member's arrest and for their decision to call the police. During his meetings with Mrs. Lopez, with the Card Specialist and with Mrs. Pleitez, the President described himself as a "compassionate and understanding man." He omitted delusional. He also said, "If I wasn't compassionate, I would have terminated everyone in here when I became President." His comment is inconsistent with his 2007 announcement to all employees in which he said that rumors that he intended to terminate staff were completely untrue.
He also vilified each woman, stating, “You have ruined her [Mrs. Gallego’s] life! What if she commits suicide?” He rambled on about feeling “bad” (him, bad?) and exclaimed as if fact, “I never would have called the police.”
Yes, if President Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. had seen a baby crying in a locked car, he would not have called the police. Well what does that say about the credit union self-described "compassionate and understanding man"?
He ended each meeting by reiterating that if a similar incident occurs in the future and if police care called, the employee or employees calling the police “will be terminated immediately.”
Having berated the employees and vilified them for doing their civic duties reveals just how morally and ethically confused Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. really is. Its also interesting that he never spoke to Robert West, the Training and Education Manager who ordered the Card Specialist to call the police. Is it because Mr. West is also Black like the President?
We contacted the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and were told that under the law, each of us is legally required to report a crime. An unattended baby in a locked car constitutes child endangerment and requires that police authorities be called, immediately. Priority One, lie all credit unions and banks is required to report incidents they suspect are criminal. Evidently, the chronically ignorant President never learned that in California the Unattended Child in Motor Vehicle Act, California Vehicle Code. Sections 15620, 15630, 15632 of the law states:
15620. (a) A parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child who is 6 years of age or younger may not leave that child inside a motor vehicle without being subject to the supervision of a person who is 12 years of age or older, under either of the following circumstances:(1) Where there are conditions that present a significant risk to the child's health or safety.(2) When the vehicle’s engine is running or the vehicle's keys are in the ignition, or both.
When employees called the police, they fulfilled their legal responsibility to save the child from harm. Can the President cite anything in state law that would validate his skewed and irrational threats? The fact that the President said he would never have called the police speaks volumes about his character.
As the sentinel of the credit union, the president is to safeguard the physical safety of all employees and members visiting the credit union's branches. Providing a safe environment for members and employees is a responsibility he has obviously chosen to shirk and when an emergency arose, his first response was to launch a scathing attack against some members of his staff while possibly hoping employees would buy into his amoral point-of-view.