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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Achieving a New Low, Part 1


It's not because of a lack of information that we last posted more than thirty days ago. To the contrary, we have an over-abundance of information and several leads that require review and confirmation. 

Recently, Priority One Credit Union conducted another of its quarterly all-staff meetings though this year, unlike all other years, the meeting took place on Wednesday, April 15th at Almansor Court in Alhambra, California.  

The location was chosen by COO, Beatrice Walker. We've learned that the reason for changing venues was to show the Board of Directors that unlike President Wiggington, she can unify employees and create a cohesive relationship between staff and management.

The decision to rent a large banquet hall seems more than a little peculiar when one considers over the past several months, the President and now, the COO, have introduced reductions in spending, including implementation of a company-wide wage freeze, the termination of four employees, and drastic reduction of the marketing and business development budgets. What's more, since May 2009, the President has insisted that he is reducing expenses, "streamlining", and "working smarter." The decision to hold the conference off-site and order catering, seems a contradiction to the President's so-called expense reduction efforts. 

Add to this Ms. Walker's spending on remodeling of the South Pasadena and Burbank branches, including installation of wall-to-wall carpeting, painting, ordering emblems of the credit union's name installed at the South Pasadena and Burbank offices and the creation of an in-house call center and one might think that Priority One is riding the wave of unstoppable success. Well, they're not. They ended 2009 deep in the negative and the credit union is strictly enforcing expense reductions which apparently have their most profound effect upon employee salaries while the executive sector remains unaffected. 


But this year's meeting was unlike most other meetings conducted in previous years. As we've reported previously, late last year, Ms. Walker decided to use the quarterly business meeting to play the drama queen. Her performance was embarrassing and poorly executed and her intent was to target employees the President has described as "bloggers", "rebels", "haters", and their "confederates." Evidently, the President and Ms. Walker decided to misuse the first quarterly meeting of the year to continue their agendas to persecute those employees who they believe are trying to usurp their authority. It really is nothing more than an exercise in paranoia. No one could have predicted the spectacle the President and COO would create or the extent to which they'd go to misuse the gathering to further propagate their personal agendas.  

The first meeting of the new year reminded us of last year's meeting during which President Wiggington and Beatrice Walker chose the event to perpetrate a ridiculous and embarrassing spectacle in which the COO talked about rumors allegedly spread by employees, which accused her of embezzling monies while employed by Honda Federal Credit Union. The poorly acted presentation was 100% unadulterated fraud, concocted by the President, the COO, and AVP, Rodger Smock. It's intent was to vilify this blog but their plot proved yet another embarrassing fiasco that fueled rumors about Ms. Walker. If their goal was to bring negative attention to the COO, then their ploy was a success. 

And like the two last quarterly meetings conducted in 2009, the President was aloof and seemed preoccupied as he paced nervously back and forth at the back of the room. The meeting was scheduled to start 8:30 a.m. but by 8:50 a.m. it hadn't begun. At almost 9:30 a.m., the President was overheard exclaiming, "We can't wait any longer for him to arrive. Let's start." Ms. Walker who had stood across the room, kept her gaze on the President. Clearly, something was up. 

Robert West arrived later and with a scowl on his face, looked suspiciously around the room, like a coyote assessing a farm yard. 

When the meeting finally started, Ms. Walker used what have become standard "ice breakers" used to rally employees and create a sense of cohesiveness. With the assistance of the Director of Credit Resolutions, the two women tossed beach balls to attendees who in turn, tossed the balls at one another. "The Beach Ball Toss" is a widely known tactic and certainly not an invention of Ms. Walker's. 

After beach balls were collected, AVP, Rodger Smock, lumbered to the podium and smilingly, welcomed all employees. He then sat behind the podium while Beatrice Walker spoke about the credit union's improved finances. Has Ms. Walker even seen the Monthly Income Statements and quarterly Financial Performance Reports? 

However, the highpoint of the meeting was when Training and Education Manager, Robert West, stood at the podium and opening the Bible, read scripture which he used to condemn the "blog", "the blogger", and the "bloggers" who he labeled "haters." One of his more eloquent statements was “There are haters who want to see the credit union fail…. I think they’re called bloggers.”  

Mr. West's performance, overshadowed Ms. Walker's embarrassing 2009 performance. Congratulations, we think. By the way, Mr. West, a former employee of Fiscal Federal Credit Union, read the lyrics from the song, Proud Mary, originally made famous by Tina Turner. As he read the lyrics from a piece of paper, he placed immense emphasis on the word, "churning" and compared the credit union's efforts to achieve excellent to a riverboat. Not only was his choice of metaphors particular, but his entire speech disturbing. He abruptly stopped reading the lyrics and stated, “I have been in meetings with the executive sector and they know what they are doing.” Yes, Mr. West has drunk the President's Kool-Aid. 

Mr. West like the President, is a sub par manipulator. He thought himself clever maybe even brilliant but in the end came off as embarrassing and as deficient as his idol. He should also taken a moment to acquaint himself with what defines "haters" and what defines "bloggers." the words are neither synonymous or interchangeable. His adrenalin flowing, Mr. West next proceeded to read from the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament and used the following scripture to chastise the "haters." 

Proverbs 25:21-22:

“If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. In doing so, you will heap burning coals on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.”

Mr. West's weapon of choice was to the abuse of Biblical scripture all in an effort to win the approval of the President. What is surprising is that Mr. West is usually awkward and stand-offish and often acting as uncomfortable with this blog as is a warlock might be at a church picnic. 
    Mr. West concluded his oratory by addressing the blogger(s) and saying, “I hope you enjoyed your breakfast.” 

    As he walked away from the dais, the President rushed towards Mr. West and wrapping his arms around his neck, pressed his lips to Mr. West's ears and whispered something inaudible. 


    You you believe Mr. West took it upon himself to level an attack against this blog because his is an officer who chooses to adhere to policies and conducts himself in a manner above reproach, you would be wrong. To the contrary. Mr. West is self-indulgent. His efforts are to create an image of what he'd like people to believe he is, but nothing could be further from the truth. 

    Mr. West, the company Trainer and Education Manager has often been seen napping in his office during working hours. In 2005 and 2006, he spent months working on a personal, none-work related self-help book, while at work and using his company-assigned computer. By the way, his use of company equipment for personal reasons is a violation of policy.  

    The credit union's member service complaints can be attributed in part to Mr. West who is responsible for training staff and who evidently has failed to acculturate new employees to the credit union's business philosophy that members are the credit union's first priority. Employees who have participated in his training classes have described him as boring and ineffective. 

    On thing is certain. Like the President, Mr. West is contributor to the credit union's decline and there is nothing he has done to help reverse any of the many problems created by his patron, Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. 


    We received the following complaints from a retired postal worker. The elderly member is the victim of fraud and reported the theft of her monies to the credit union. The credit union chose not to respond in a timely or proactive manner and in doing so, subjected the member who is also a victim, unnecessary duress. 

    The second complaint concerns the refusal by the credit union to return monies to the member. The member moved is disabled and decided to move out-of-state. She closed her accounts and the credit union refuses to return the money from from her accounts. 

    "This complaint concerns two incidents. The first is the refusal by Priority One Credit Union to investigate my complaint that money was taken without authorization from my checking account by a former caregiver in 2009. The credit union never reimbursed any of the stolen money even though six stolen checks show a signature that there records show isn't mine and they issued a VISA check card in my name, to the former caregiver. The signature on the application for the VISA card does is not mine. The credit union did not follow due diligence and verify that the signatures were mine. The second complaint is that I requested the credit union close my accounts and return my money with interest but they now refuse to do so.

    Complaint #1

    In 2009, the compliance specialist at Priority One discovered that my former caregiver had accessed my checking accounts using my personal checks made payable in her name and on which she forged my signature; and withdrawn money from my account using my ATM card. At the time, the compliance specialist asked that I file a Suspicious Activity Report though Priority One never provided follow-up regarding what they concluded from their investigation nor was any of the money reimbursed to my account though 6 checks were involved in the forgery and clearly proving the signature on each was not my own.

    The ATM withdrawals occurred primarily in Las Vegas, a city I have not visited in recent years. The compliance specialist identified fraud and immediately blocked my the debit card and initiated an investigation.

    Priority One refuses to acknowledge or respond to the incident involving fraud, resulting in a tremendous loss of funds to my person. I originally relented from pursuing legal action against the credit union because of my age, my health and the time it would take to pursue legal recourse.

    It should also be noted that when the President was informed about the theft he exclaimed, "We're not going to pay that. It's not our fault!" Obviously, the former Vice President of Operations is quite incapable of comprehending that if his staff had followed established protocols, they might have discovered that signature on the VISA check card application did not match the member's signature on file. Inarguably, it was the failure to follow standard banking procedures designed to protect members and the credit union that created the opportunity for theft perpetrated by the member's caregiver. 

    Records confirm that approximately $30,000 were stolen from the member's checking account, including the use of thefts containing her forged signature. Again, why didn't the credit union compare any of the signatures on the checks with those on file?

    An additional $12,000 were taken using her VISA Check Card, yet at no time did anyone perform security procedures. As disclosed previously, the signature on the VISA Check Care Application was never compared with the member's signature on file. If the procedure had been followed the discrepancies in signature would likely have been identified. 

    An investigation has also confirmed that the thefts were all committed by the member's caregiver who is not related to the member. The VISA Check Card was issued by the Redlands branch. At the time the Branch Manager at the Redlands' branch was Joseph Garcia who is presently the Call Center Supervisor, the Real Estate and Consumer Loan Officer, and Credit Manager. Could a part of the problem stem from sub par staff training?

    And contrary to President Wiggington's protest that "We're not going to pay that. It's not our fault!", the credit union is accountable for failing to perform security procedures and must return the monies stolen from them member's account. The COO was also advised of the incident and said she'd have to think about whether or not, the credit union is obligated to return the stolen funds.  

    Complaint #2:

    I also moved to Dayton, Ohio, and reside with my niece, Eugenia Horne. In a letter dated January 7, 2010, I asked the credit union to please close my accounts and forward all funds and interest to my new residence. In February 2010, I called Priority One to inquire about status of my request and was advised by Genevieve Rodriguez, a representative in the Member Services Department, that my letter dated January 7, 2010, had never been received.

    I was asked to fax a copy of the original letter which I faxed to the credit union on 2/10/10. A few days later, I again called the credit union but was informed that they do not accept faxed requests. I was told I must mail an original, notarized letter to the member services department and that following receipt of my correspondence, they will release my funds. On February 22nd, I mailed a notarized letter which was sent via priority mail service. The credit union did not contact me and so on Wednesday, March 17, 2010, I called the credit union and was told by Genevieve Rodriguez Alexander that the credit union requires a “legal precedent” and that I should obtain the services of a financial advisor. I advised Genevieve that I do not have nor have ever had a financial advisor. According to Genevieve, the credit union cannot return my funds because my file contains a reference to elder abuse. She also said they require my Power of Attorney, but I have never given any one power of attorney over my finances.

    Their refusal has adversely affected my personal finances and is causing me duress and physical stress. When I advised the credit union that I have never had power of attorney, they advised me I must provide this and that there is nothing they can do until I provide the requested proof. I was also told that I am unable to transfer money from my savings account to my checking account and thus no longer have access to my funds. Before leaving the company, the compliance officer informed me that she presented the portion of my claim which involves the unauthorized access of my account, to President Charles Wiggington and that he said the credit union would not reimburse me the stolen money because it was not their fault my former caregiver accessed my accounts. But if the credit union had compared the signature on file against the signature on the checks, they would have seen that they did not match, so isn't the credit union responsible?

    Due to the time and energy it would require and with consideration to my health and age, I have avoided seeking legal recourse."

    We spoke to an employee of the credit union who confirmed the member never has provided Power of Attorney to anyone. So why would the member be asked to provide Power of Attorney? Is Priority One committing elder abuse? 

    Last year, Training and Education Manager, Robert West, was asked by the President to write a new mission statement that would resonate President Wiggington's business philosophy and better express his view of the role played by the credit union in the lives of its members. Mr. West's rewritten statement describes Priority One as a "financial fitness center" possessing the ability to "help members and employees win with money." Is the ordeal the member is being subjected to by the credit union an example of financial fitness or of helping members "win with money."  


    We'd like to begin by stating that being ambitious is not necessarily a negative and should never be confused with unscrupulous. That said, as we've reported previously, late last year, the exasperated Board of Directors began transferring much of the President's decision-making authority to COO, Beatrice Walker. 

    The Board's actions reveal they've placed their faith in the abilities of the COO while withdrawing their support of the President. Ms. Walker has quickly shown she is a clever manipulator. Within her first 6-months of employment, she wooed the Board and quickly gained their trust without yet proving that any of her decisions will have a positive long-term impact upon the credit union financial performance. 

    Over the past 10-months, she's also formed a clique - her inner sanctum, consisting of Director of Credit Resolutions, Yvonne Boutte, and Real Estate and Loan Manager, Call Center Supervisor, and Credit Manager, Joseph Garcia. 

    She's also leveled criticisms about President Wiggington, describing him as "unprofessional", "not President material", and "he doesn't know what he's doing." She has not concealed her plans to eventually be named successor to Mr. Wiggington and has said she intends on forcing AVP, Rodger Smock, into retirement because he is "too old", "useless", "ineffective" and "overpaid." She has also targeted the future removal of Training and Education Manager, Robert West, who she describes as "ineffective" and "unnecessary." 


    It's no secret that most of the Board of Directors reads this blog. Our publication is also read daily by President Wiggington and read frequently read by Training and Education Manager, Robert West. Credit Resolutions Director, Yvonne Boutte, and collections agent, Alex Suarez, also read this blog on a daily basis. And COO, Beatrice Walker, subscribes to Feed Burner so that she is notified on her cellular, each time someone posts a comment on this site.

    What's more, the credit union frequently reacts to our reports by issuing threats of termination to employees, reminding staff that the credit union has a policy governing confidentiality, hiring consultants to search computers assigned to specific employees, hoping to find evidence that employees are reading this blog while at work and or sending confidential information to this blog. 

    The credit union's officers are so focused on this blog that they're literally neglecting business. As mentioned in previous posts, the credit union is experiencing amassing member complaints citing deficient member service despite the fact that in 2008, the President purchased a technically flawed $600,000 telephone system and earlier this year the COO spent more than $70,000 installing a new call center. 

    The incident regarding the member's account which was pillaged by her caregiver and the subsequent refusal by Priority One to return the stolen funds is but one incident of abuse committed by and under President Wiggington. 

    Recently, the COO, said that monies embezzled by a former receptionist of the Los Angeles branch will not be returned to member's accounts unless members file an actual physical paper claim. She and the President have also stated that monies will not be restored to accounts belonging to now deceased members, unless their beneficiaries file claims. Yes, it's illegal!

    The COO's embarrassing display during a 2009 quarterly meeting and the even more embarrassing behavior of Training and Education Manager, Robert West, during this year's first quarterly meeting are all knee-jerk reactions to this blog. The credit union is stuck on defense mode and their stubbornness is affecting how they respond to employee concerns. 


    The President's incompetence is not only attested to in the many business failures he's launched since January 1, 2007, the date he began his appointment to President, but in his free-wheeling, undisciplined spending of credit union funds which have included the hiring of Beatrice Walker at a salary in excess of $100,000; spending on remodeling of the South Pasadena and Burbank branches; purchase of a failed $600,000 phone system; installation of a failing Call Center; creation of an unnecessary AVP sector; and procurement of a $20 million loans whose monthly interest payments are hacking away sat the credit union's financial foundation. 

    But his obsession with spending is overshadowed by his obsession with this blog. During the recent quarterly all-staff meeting, he planned an ambush and apparently invited a guest who never showed up though that didn't deter the attention-starved Training and Education Manager, Robert West, from reading from the Bible in an apparent attempt to chastise the "blogger", "bloggers", and "haters." Whatever the President hoped to accomplish was undermined by his own outlandish and ridiculous display which served to further attest to the absurd lengths he will go to accomplish his emotionally-driven intents. 


    In 2007, the President expressed keen interest in having former Post Master, James Smith, run for a seat on the Board. In fact, when Mr. Smith visited the South Pasadena branch, the President exclaimed loudly, "I need you on the board, man." The President's statement to Mr. Smith was made months before he was suspended while allegations that he sexually harassed a former employee were being investigated and before Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, squashed the evidence to ensure the President was reinstated. By the way, Mrs. Harris-Brooks has never made a secret of her disdain for Mr. Smith. 

    This year, the Board has remained unusually quiet about the current election. A week and a half ago, Mr. Smith arrived at the South Pasadena branch and was interviewed by to of the Board's Directors. Following conclusion of the meeting, he was escorted to the exit located on La France Avenue rather than being allowed to use the front entryway.

    Unbeknownst to the Board Chair, the President has recently expressed tremendous support for Mr. Smith, stating he wants to see him serve as a Director. Should we construe the President's interest in Mr. Smock as an indicator that he's grown tired of Mrs. Harris-Brooks? He is certainly aware of her dislike for Mr. Smith who she was a subordinate of when she was employed by the postal service. And the President knows that if Mr. Smith is elected, it would conflict with Mrs. Harris-Brooks' very personal agendas.

    This year's Mr. Smith's application to vie for a seat on the Board was decline because of adverse references contained in his credit report. We happen to know that there are Directors and Supervisors whose credit reports have incurred adverse references since they were first elected. Why haven't recently inquiries been performed and the officers removed commensurate with credit union by-laws? 
    We believe Mr. Wiggington would like to be free of the Board Chair who he owes everything to for reinstating him as President in spite of evidence he sexually harassed a former employee. 

    With Mr. Smith's application having been denied, the President has now turned his hopes to Gilbert Atwood, who will run against Director, Janice Irving. Mrs. Irving is the Director who in 2008, voted that the President be terminated when evidence proved he sexually harassed a former employee. She was of course out-voted and forever incurred the hatred of the President. 

    In 2009, the President and the Board Chair disrupted the credit union's electoral process, all to keep former Director, David Davidson, from being elected to the Supervisory Committee and to ensure the current Directors and Supervisors remained unchanged. However, their interference may have also impeded the President's future plans to find ways of placing candidates he prefers, like James Smith, on the Board or Supervisory Committee. Obviously and as usual, he didn't think that far ahead.  


    This past week, the Training and Education Manager found his voice albeit it in an attempt to manipulate employees using cheap theatrics and misusing Biblical scripture to try and force "haters" into submission. It was a stupid move on his part and one that has sealed his reputation as President Wiggington's personal "tool."

    The past week also revealed discord amongst the executive sector as the COO gathers her new authority to introduce changes that will supposedly create profit and also serve to show that Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. is an incompetent who has squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars on improvements that to date, have all failed to achieve their intended goals. As the COO recently revealed, her goal is to be President and apparently, we are witnessing her campaign. 

    The credit union reported Net Income for the month of February 2010, at $169,480,562.93. 
    On the surface, this appears to be an improvement but its not. The amount includes the $10 million unpaid balance due on the $20 million loan borrowed by the President in mid-2008. Thus, the actual and correct amount of the credit union's Net Income is $159,480,562.93. On January 1, 2007, the date Charles R. Wiggington. Sr. began his appointment as President, the credit union's net income was $172,250,649 revealing that under him, Net Income has decreased by approximately $13 million. This is clearly not progress, it is not improvement and it hardly validates the President's claims that he's "working smarter."  


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