BLIND AS A BAT
In our last post we reported upon Priority One Credit Union's annual meeting which took place on May 27,2009, at the credit union's main branch in South Pasadena, California.
As we revealed, the annual meeting was stringently controlled by President Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. and Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, in an effort to stop attendees from asking questions that could bring into scrutiny decisions made by the Board throughout 2008, which included reinstating him after he was suspended with pay for approximately 6-weeks, during which allegations he sexually harassed a former employee, were investigated. The two were also concerned that attendees would question why the credit union has lost more than $6 million since Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. was appointed President on January 1, 2007, and why the Board approved the borrowing of $20 million from Priority One's line-of-credit.
The meeting was attended by the entire Board of Directors and entire Supervisory Committee. There were also two armed guards and credit union attorney, William Adler, Esq. and two other colleagues from his law firm. There was clearly an attempt to demonstrate strength and possibly even intimidate those attendees the President said were armed and going to disrupt the meeting. Of course his statements turned out to be another of Charles R. Wiggington, Sr.'s possible neurotic fits. After the meeting, some attendees laughingly said they thought they were attending a celebrity trial. Obviously, the Resident and Mrs. Harris-Brooks forgot to call the paparazzi.
DODGING A BULLET
or so he thinks
President Wiggington may periodically proclaim that unlike his predecessor, he has vision (whatever that means) but the fact is, President Wiggington has proven he is quite incapable of perceiving the "big picture" in any situation and has no understanding of the principles governing Cause and Effect.
After the meeting ended, a sweat soaked President hurriedly made his way across the Loan Department to Mrs. Harris-Brooks, exclaiming loudly that the meeting had been a victory. We beg to differ.
The following day, Thursday, May 28th, the elated President walked through the Loan Department, speaking loudly on his cell phone, in the presence of staff members, boasting that the meeting had been a "slam dunk." Was it?
He evidently was unaware of rumors which quickly circulated through the South Pasadena branch about how it was obvious that he and the Board Chair were "trying to hide something." As general as the statement is, that is the impression they made and one which we don't believe was part of the agenda of the two unclever officers.
UNVEILING THE FIRST AND NEW COO
President Wiggington thought he secretly hired Priority One's first COO. Unfortunately, several weeks ago he told some employees, one of which is AVP, Rodger Smock, .that he was going to hire a COO to help him with projects he was too busy to attend to. As he should have expected but evidently didn't, rumors swept across all branches of what he intended to due. As we've often posted, President Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. is undisciplined and can't control his verbalizations.
During the May 27th farcical annual meeting, neither the President or Board Chair ever made reference to the hiring of a COO, though most attendees were aware of the impending arrival of the credit union's newest executive.
On June 1st, the new COO arrived though she was not introduced by title to employees. AVP, Rodger Smock led her through every department in the main branch and merely introducing her as "This is Bea Worker. She's new." Could he have said less? We and many employees know she is the COO but why not mention her title? Why the secrecy? .
Who is she?
In our last post, we briefly touched upon the fact that a new COO had been hired though no official announcement had been made by the credit union. Here is what we know about her:
Her name as mentioned previously, is Beatrice Walker. Her first day of employment was Monday, June 1, 2009.
She arrived at the credit union quietly and without fanfare. She was taken on a tour of the South Pasadena branch by AVP, Rodger Smock who never alluded to her title or what she would be doing.
On June 2nd, fliers were distributed to all employees announcing that Beatrice Walker is the new Chief Operations Officer ("COO") and will be reporting President Wiggington. She will oversee operations for all branches.
Ms. Walker has also been an employee in the credit union industry for over 15-years and was once employed by the U.S. Postal Service Federal Credit Union. She is also highly experienced and brings tremendous knowledge to the credit union. She also earned a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University at La Verne.
It seems peculiar that President Wiggington would hire someone who clearly is better educated than himself. It also seems peculiar that she has accepted employment with a credit union that is in decline and whose President has earned an industry-wide reputation for being corrupt and incompetent.
Ms. Walker is an expensive addition to a credit union who according to President Wiggington, is being forced to streamline spending. This is clearly not an example of streamlining. So has she been hired to find solutions to the mess created by President Wiggington?
Before her arrival at the credit union on Monday, June 1, 2009, Ms. Walker was the Finance Manager at Electricore in Valencia, California. She resigned only a few days before her arrival at Priority One. She didn't give her previous employer the customer two-week notice which may indicate something about her character.
While at Electricore, she was responsible for many of the Finance Department's functions including, "financial planning, analysis and reporting aspects of company operations." She also oversaw compliance of the company's contractual agreements and tracked contract and project budgets. She administrated certain tasks usually assigned to Human Resources, including "medical insurance and the retirement plan." She also spent several years working for the "non-profit sector of credit unions" and was the Executive Vice President at Universal Studios Credit Union. In 2002, she served as the Executive VP of Pasadena Schools Federal Credit Union and at the time was responsible for analyzing finances and investments as well as directing lending and new product development and prior to that served as the manager of the call center at Honda Federal Credit Union.
On the surface, she appears to be the polar opposite of President Wiggington but only time will tell if her arrival means an end to the implementation of failed decisions and abhorrent business practices or if she will instead, join the fray and contribute the misappropriation of authority which plagues Priority One's executive sector.
For those who may not be aware, President Wiggington's agreement with the credit union expires at the end of December 2009. That is only fix more months. Let's hope Beatrice Walker is the antithesis of President Wiggington and that she doesn't view policies and laws as something to defy. Maybe she will be exactly what the credit union needs to recover its former place in the industry. Then again, she may prove to be just another of the President's henchmen.
OMITTING THE TRUTH
As reported in our previous publication, at the end of this year's annual meeting, Mrs. Harris-Brooks invited attendees to ask questions but made it very clear that questions could only be asked about the topics contained in the agenda she and the President prepared for the meeting. Censorship? Control?
It was obvious that the officers attending the meeting were nervous, having been placed in high alert by the fatuous President who declared that there would be "trouble" at this year's meeting, asserting that an employee or band of employees had planned to disrupt the meeting and that he knew for a fact, would be armed with guns. The President may need to taper off watching to many police drams on television because his claims were more than unfounded, they were the product of his disturbing mindset.
The President created a smoke screen to deter attendees from asking questions about subjects that two do not wish to discuss publicly. These include:
- The decline of Nert Income in the millions of dollars since January 1, 2007, the date Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. began his appointment to President.
- Why he repossessed a member's BMW and transferred ownership to himself without ever paying any money for the automobile. And why he had no problem ruining the member's credit even though the member had signed a repayment agreement that would have enabled him to become current with his vehicles payments.
- He did not wish to answer questions about why he sexually harassed a former employee and Mrs. Harris-Brooks did not want to answer questions why despite being provided evidence that the President violated federal law, had she and three other officers voted for his reinstatement.
- Why the President, with the assistance of Human Resources was allowed to slander, abuse and finally terminate a number of former employees.
A reason the two may avoided mentioning hiring of the credit union's first COO is because during the annual meeting, President Wiggington focused on his alleged efforts to reduce spending, "streamling" costs, and "working smarter." Disclosure that a new executive had been hired to the already top heavy organization would have contradicted his assurances that reducing spending was important. Evidently not.
During the annual meeting, the President announced the Net Income now exceeds $180,000,000. That indeed would have been an all-time high had it were not true. What the President intentionally omitted is that in mid-2008, he borrowed $20 million from the credit union's line-of-credit. In the history of the credit union, no President had borrowed money from the credit union's line-of-credit. The loan has forced the credit union to now issue payments approximating $30,000 to $33,000 per month in interest alone. What's more, Priority One has not issued a single payment against the principle, focusing instead on paying the interest. Is this an example of "working smarter"?
Deducting the amount of the loan from the amount of Net Income reduces the credit union's actual Net Income to $160 million This is a decrease of the $12 million since January 1, 2007, the date, Charles R. Wiggington,Sr., began his appointment as President.
January 1, 2007
January 1, 2009
- $20 million
ACTUAL AMOUNT OF NET INCOME
January 1, 2009
During the annual meeting the President described the financials referenced in the annual report as confusing to understand and while he spoke, asked attendees to turn to pay 3 of the report and then to page 2 and then back to page 3. He literally resorted to use of the Shell Game during a business meeting.
SKY'S THE LIMIT
The credit union offers products and serves which ideally may enable members to help save and increase their monies. The President, however, and the entire Board of Directors have often proven they have absolutely no comprehension of applying the principles of money management to business.
- In 2008, the President obtained approval from the Board to purchase a $600,000* telephone system that has proven to be a technical nightmare. Each month, the credit union has been forced to pay for technicians who visit the main branch to repair the latest slew of problems plaguing the phone system.
*Manny CFO, Gaitmaitan, disclosed the cost of the phone system
- A few weeks ago, the President authorized construction of a new Training Room. Construction comes shortly after implementation of a company=wide wage freeze and the elimination of all overtime.
- The President ordered the refurbishment of the old Training Room which has been converted into an office for the new COO.
- The Board authorizing the hiring of a new COO, adding yet another executive to a credit union that is over-saturated by executives.
- The President recently obtained approval from Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, to hire two armed guards and to pay the credit union attorney, to attend this past may's annual meeting.
- In 2008, President Wiggington was suspended with pay for an approximate 6-week period during which an investigation was conducted to determine if he sexually harassed a former employee.
- During the President's suspension, the credit union hired EXTTI, Inc. who conducted the investigation of the President.
A CHANGE OF MOOD
In the days following the meeting, President Wiggington could not suppress his happiness, behaving giddily at times and declaring the annual meeting a success.
It wasn't that the annual meeting was successful because little information was volunteered by either the President or the Board that could have been deemed valuable or informative. What the President was celebrating was the fact that he and Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, were able to avoid answering questions that could have proven highly embarrassing to the dishonest and corrupt officers. The two highest officers issued a statement prior to and during the meeting, informing attendees that only questions about topics on the meeting's agenda would be allowed. If it was a victory, albeit it one that was hollow.
What the President was actually celebrating was not the success of the meeting which offered little valuable information to attendees but by the fact he and Diedra Harris-Brooks were able to avoid attendees from asking questions that might have brought into a public form the topic of the President's far flung abuses and the Board's derelict conduct which has enable to President and his staff to undermine the credit union as a business and employer.
The day after the meeting, the President took a three-hour lunch with Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, and AVP, Rodger Smock. The President returned to the office inebriated, boasting that he, Mrs. Harris-Brooks and Mr. Smock had "laughed" at the attendees, none of who asked questions about the credit union's losses. It was indeed a wonderful day for the irresponsible President. At least, that's what he thought.
On Friday, May 29th, the President arrived to work, still elated about his supposed victory at the annual meeting. At approximately 12 noon, he received a telephone call from an irate, Diedra Harris-Brooks, who placed him on a conference call with a Mr. Boone, the Postal Manager of the Airport Post Office. Mr. Boone was evidently frustrated, complaining that he had spent months trying to orchestrate installation of a credit union branch in his facility, but the President had never responded to his numerous calls. The President had been cornered and his once happy mood, completely dissipated.
In August 2008, the credit union closed it's Worldway Branch located inside a postal facility on Century Boulevard. The closure occurred after the postal service notified the credit union that they needed to use the space that Priority One had occupied for many years.
Prior to closing the branch, the President issued a notice to members, advising them of the impending closure of the branch and promised he would "soon" reopen a new branch at another location. Months would pass without a new branch being opened.
In the months which followed, Mr. Boone called the President and offered a space within the Airport facility where a new branch could be opened. Initially, the President agreed to install a branch at the location and even spent credit union monies to commission blueprints for the new location, however, suddenly and without explanation, the President stopped all communication with Mr. Boone, refusing to return any of the postal manager's many calls.
What Mr. Boone had no way of knowing is that the President experienced a sudden change of mind and had decided that instead of an actual branch staffed by human beings, he would instead, install a self-service kiosk somewhere in the vicinity of the Los Angeles International Airport. At the time, the President told his executive staff that a kiosk would better serve members though he never ordered a study to determine whether this was true or not. As we've often written, Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. who cleaves to the concoctions of his vivid and often, distorted imagination.
On May 29, 2015, weary of the President's refusal to return his calls, Mr. Booth called Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, informing her of his offer, the President's acceptance, and lastly the President sudden refusal to return calls or to keep Mr. Booth informed of any changes to their original plans.
During the conference call, Mr. Booth informed Mrs. Harris-Brooks and the President that if Priority One chose to decline his offer, he would extend an invitation to CITI Bank to open a a branch within the postal office or he would invite Starbucks or another business to occupy the space. Mr. Booth also informed the President and Board Chair that he had already sent a long email to the Post Master in Los Angeles, informing him of his invitation to Priority One and President Wiggington's current refusal to respond to Mr. Booth's numerous calls.
President Wiggington attempted to defend his reason for not following through with Mr. Booth, alleging that the Worldway branch had most often been utilized by members to only make deposits and withdraw money and that they had shown little interest in the credit union's products and services. Mr. Booth, who was disinterested in entertaining Charles R. Wiggington, Sr.'s excuses, replied, "I doubt it." Mr. Booth was absolutely correct. The Worldway office had been utilized by members as a point of contact where they could apply for loans, open accounts, obtain CD's and numerous other products. The Worldway branch had been located just outside the Los Angeles International Airport and served all of the communities around the airport and South Bay communities. Mr. Booth did not to tolerate the President's attempted ruse.
A NOT-SO POSTAL FRIENDLY CREDIT UNION
In February, we reported that President Wiggington chose to implement e-statements. His decision was to provide added convenience to any member's home banking experience.
His decision was not enthusiastically received by many employees of the United States Postal Service who see e-statements as yet another factor that will reduce mail delivery and which in turn will reduce their work and threaten their employment. The postal workers are absolutely correct.
E-statements were just one of many decisions made by the President since his appointment on January 1, 2007, which at times, intentionally estranged the credit union's once strong ties to employees of the United States Postal Service ("USPS").
What's more, the President who used to frequently boast about his past employment at Bank of America, seemed to have forgotten that Priority One Credit Union was founded by employees of the USPS who hoped to provide services and products to people who couldn't obtain these from traditional banks.
In January 2007, President Wiggington instructed all AVP's, Branch Managers, and Business Development Representatives to reduce their focus on developing new business from employees of the USPS and instead, focus on developing new business amongst Select Employer Groups ("SEG's"). At the time, he explained that his goal was to transform the credit union's entire membership and replace blue-collared workers, like postal carriers and clerks, with business owners and their employees. His goal was evidently, WHITE collared workers.
His plan to change the credit union's demographics is difficult to reconcile with the fact that Priority One's Board of Directors and Supervisory Committee is made-up of employees- past and present, of the USPS. In January 2007, he also revealed that he hoped to change the credit union so that it more closely resembled a bank and not a credit union. Clearly, Priority One was attempting to resurrect the banking environment where he was once employed.
The President's actions are undeniably, not intended to serve the membership and in particular, to erase the fact that Priority One, once known as the Postal Credit Union of Los Angeles, was founded by postal carriers. If not, then why was his agenda implemented in 2007, intended to reduce interacting with employees of the USPS?
The President has intentionally neglected relationship with the membership. His decision not to return voicemails left by Mr. Booth, the Postal Manager of the Airport Post Office, attests to the level of disrespect he has for people, for members, and for employees of the USPS.
The President and Board Chair's scheme perpetrated during the May 27, 2009, Annual Meeting was not as the President boasted a victory. What their strategy proved, is that the two officers have much to hide and are petrified to have what they've done, made public. During the meeting, they disallowed questions that were unrelated to the topics in Mrs. Harris-Brooks' agenda. The two were apparently afraid to answer questions that could reveal how how corrupt these two are in their business dealings.
Ethics and integrity mean nothing to these two who are the reason why Priority One remains in a state of decline. The President and Board Chair have not only caused the credit union's decline, they have single-handedly injured its public reputation and they've created a chasm between members and the credit union. They have spent the last two years treating Priority One like it's their piggy bank.
Don't expect anything to improve at any time in the near future, at least not while Charles R. Wiggington,.Sr. remains President and Diedra Harris-Brooks remains the Board's incompetent and unethical Chair.