There is no doubt that Priority One Credit Union's decline began after Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. was appointed its President. Despite the evidence proving his deficiencies as a leader, the President has had no trouble manufacturing excuses that assert that the factors causing the credit union's decline are all out of his control.
Over the past 6 months, he's blamed the national economy and the nation's unemployment rates and stated, "All credit unions are doing bad." We beg to differ. A visit to the NCUA's website (www.ncua.gov) and a search of Financial Performance Reports ("FPR's") for other credit union reveals that many are actually growing and prospering.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the President recently found a new target to blame for Priority One's problems- this blog!
Though anyone familiar with the credit union's history would readily see that Priority One's decline began after Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. was appointed President, the always dull and irresponsible President has chosen to find yet another scapegoat to explain the many problems borne out of his incompetence. Who is he going to blame next, former President, William E. Harris? Oh wait, he's done that already.
Though we avidly believe the pen is mightier than the sword or as in this case, the keyboard, the fact is, this blog is incapable of affecting the credit union's ability to do business if what we wrote was untrue. There is also another problem with the President's excuse. This blog came online on January 13, 2009 and 18 days later, on January 31, 2009, the credit union reported losses in the amount of $118,128.87. There is no way we could have had such an immediate and profound impact upon the credit union's business. What we'd like to know is how many members have closed their accounts because of this blog.
Last year, President Wiggington concluded without an investigation or the obtainment of a single piece of tangible evidence that the Director of Marketing had written the unsigned letter that was sent to one of the credit union's Directors exposing AVP, Liz Campos, of kiting, a federal offense. The President was so incensed that someone had exposed his hand-picked AVP, that he contrived a plan to drive the Director of Marketing out of the credit union. When he failed to force her resignation, he had her laid-off using the excuse that he was replacing the marketing department with a marketing committee and substituting the experienced Marketing Director with a group of employees, none of who had any experience in marketing. When asked what evidence he obtained that proved the Marketing Director had mailed an anonymous letter to the Board's Director, he smugly replied, "I just know."
Last year, the President issued badges to every employee on which were printed the words, "Just Ask." The President ordered that every employee was to wear the badge while at work and assured all employees that the badges were going to generate lots of new business. When asked where he'd gotten the idea to create the badges, he replied, "I thought of it while sitting at home." His idea was not preceded by a study or responses obtained from a focus group but rather the result of a whim or a heart-felt belief that if he thought the badges would bring in new business, then they would. By the way, they didn't and within 30-days of being distributed, employees stopped wearing the badges with many of them ending up in employee trash cans.
President Wiggington's enterprises have to date, always resulted in failure. Unable to take responsibility for his failures, Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. has instead resorted to blaming others for failures that are the direct result of his subpar strategies. We don't foresee an end at any time soon, to his continued blunderings.
His latest excuse, like his other excuses, lacks substance. Here are some factors which have contributed to Priority One's decline, all of which began after January 1, 2007:
The Merger with Inland Counties Federal Postal Credit Union
The merger was a prudent move by President William E. Harris and one which potentially would have benefited both Priority One and Inland Counties Federal Credit Union ("Inland Counties"), alike. Unfortunately, Mr. Harris retired and President Wiggington inherited control over Inland Counties FCU and with it, all of Riverside County, California.
The onslaught of problems which occurred after the merger were the result of poor planning on the part of President Wiggington. The first problem that arose was the failure by Priority One to transfer Inland Counties' member records into its own database. As a result, members could not access their credit union accounts either through personal home banking or when using an ATM. Problems affecting records when mergers occur are not unusual, however, how these issues are resolved is crucial.
Opting to allegedly save $100,000, President Wiggington ordered that employees manually enter member information for Inland Counties' members into the credit union's database. As a result of human and technological errors, the manual entry of member records resulted in the duplication of member account records, the creation of incomplete records and the omission of payroll deposit data. The debacle was pure chaos.
These issues and others, were further exacerbated when President Wiggington ordered his staff only to respond to complaints lodged by members who called the credit union. His decision excluded the many other members who were not aware of errors impacting their accounts. His decision was not proactive and irresponsible. In the days following the merger, many of Inland Counties' members discovered they could not use their VISA Check Cards while others discovered that their scheduled Bill Pay accounts had not been paid as scheduled.
The President's failure to respond quickly and effectively cost Priority One more than $60,000 to resolve and in the end, many of Inland Counties' members closed their accounts.
President Wiggington, Sr. blamed the entire debacles on his predecessor, William E. Harris, declaring, "Mr Harris left me a mess." Odd that Mr. Harris, the President who increased the credit union's physical and asset size, purposely left a "mess" that evidently, Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. was incapable of resolving. President Wiggington would later say, " I had to clean up Harris' mess!"
On the day, Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. became President, Priority One's asset size was $172,250,649. He inherited this amount on January 1, 2007, from his predecessor, William E. Harris, who while president, increased the credit union's asset size to an unprecedented high.
By December 31, 2007, the credit union's asset size had declined to $166,872,190- a loss of approximately $6 million.
During his first 5 months in office, President Wiggington chose to forgo security procedures used to ensure ballots mailed to members for the credit union's annual elections, were sent without incidence.
Prior to January 1, 2007, the date Charles R. Wiggington., Sr. was appointed President, a sample batch of envelopes containing ballots, would be reviewed to ensure there were no error with the intended mailing. In 2007, when asked to review the batch of sample ballots, President Wiggington, exclaimed, "I'm President. I don't do that. Just mail them."
A few days after the ballots were mailed, members discovered that their credit union account and social security numbers were printed on the exterior of the envelopes, just above their names and addresses. The credit union's inept Board ordered the immediate termination of the person who was responsible for the mailing. And though that person was Charles R. Wiggington, Sr., the President found a scapegoat in Alan Santos, the IT Supervisor. Mr. Santos had compiled information on a disc. He presented the disc to President Wiggington to review. The President refused to check it, stating, "Just mail it to the printer."
The President told Mr. Santos that the Board ordered his termination but that he interceded and convinced them that Mr. Santos should only be suspended for three-days.
Following the suspension, Mr. Santos returned to work and a few weeks later, resigned.
The Marketing Department
President Wiggington deemed it prudent to replace the Marketing Department with a marketing committee. According to the President, the credit union did not require an expensive Marketing Department and could instead accomplish the same purposes of the former department using employees of the credit union.
The President allowed then AVP, Aaron Cavazos, to appoint staff members from the South Pasadena branch. He selected employees who like himself, had absolutely no experience in anything related to marketing.
Due to their limited knowledge the marketing committee actually served in the capacity of an advertising committee, selecting language and graphics for planned promotions. Could this have had an effect on the credit union's ability to acquire new business?
In mid-2008, President Wiggington, Sr. borrowed $20 million from the credit union's line-of-credit. From 2008 through 2010, the credit union paid out approximately $30,000 a month on interest alone. The reason for borrowing $20 million was to raise the amount of the credit union's asset size on paper. The plan was to create the impression of growth when the credit union was actually in decline.
Charles was placed on a paid suspension for approximately 6-weeks during which EXTTI, Inc. conducted an investigation of allegations he sexually harassed a former employee for a period of a few years. At the end of the investigation, the investigator provided the Board of Directors evidence proving Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. had indeed sexually harassed the former employee. The investigator also recommended the President's termination but Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, led a contingent of the Directors and one Supervisor in voting for his reinstatement.
Justice Auto Sales
President Wiggington tried to reinstate a former business relationship with the owner of Justice Auto Sales, Henry Justice. Mr. Justice had originally been introduced to the credit union several years prior to Charles R. Wiggington, Sr.'s appointment to President and for a short while served as one of the credit union's contracted automobile brokers. Mr. Justice's relationship with Priority One ended when he took more than $83,000 paid to him by Priority One for 4 automobiles purchased from his company by members of the credit union. For over 2 years, Priority One struggled to acquire the pink slips for each vehicle while Mr. Justice filed for bankruptcy and escaped retribution for the money he absconded with. Despite the incident, in 2009, President Wiggington tried to re-establish a business relationship with Mr. Justice but his plan was foiled when we exposed what he was planning to do.
Declining Funding of Loans
In 2008, Charles Wiggington, Sr. blamed the decline of loans on AVP, Aaron Cavazos, the officer he had once referred to as his "buddy".
Though the two officers had been closed and though both conspired in harassing and terminating employees, in 2008 their "friendship" came to an abrupt end when the President informed Mr. Cavazos that the Board was displeased with the decline in loan funding. He also informed Mr. Cavazos that employees had complained that Mr. Cavazos was only at the office one or two hours per day. What's more, Human Resources had learned that Mr. Cavazos was using his office at the main branch, to conduct business for his second job. As a result, the President decided to promote Mr. Cavazos' assistant, Patricia Loiacano, to AVP of Lending. Mr. Cavazos grew incensed and striking the President's desk with his fist, yelled that he should have first been consulted before a decision had been made to promote Mrs. Loiacano.
That same afternoon, Mr. Cavazos left the company on what was to be a temporary leave of absence. Several months later, Mr. Cavazos contacted Human Resources to inform them he would be returning to work.
President Wiggington promoted Mr. Cavazos on January 1, 2007, for the Director of Lending to AVP of Operations and Lending. The President promoted Mr. Cavazos despite the fact that over the years, a large number of employees had complained that Mr. Cavazos was abusive, rude, retaliatory, and had sexually harassed some staff members.
After Mr. Cavazos contacted Human Resources to advise him of his intended return to work, the President gathered all the complaints filed prior to Mr. Cavazos' promotion to AVP and delivered these to the credit union's attorney. The complaints were thereafter used to terminate Mr. Cavazos.
New Phone System
In the weeks following his appointment to President, Charles R. Wigggington, Sr. purchased a new mail system, complaining that the old was outdated.
A few months later, he obtained authorization from the Board to spend $600,000 on a new telephone system. The President chose the system without consulting the CFO or the IT department. The system he purchased proved technically unsound and each month for more than a year, AT & Technicians arrive at the credit union to try and resolve the ongoing technical issues affecting the system.
A reason the President ordered the expensive and inefficient system is that it allows him to listen to incoming and outgoing calls. We don't think his reason justifies the system's cost.