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Friday, September 10, 2010

Another Road to Nowhere, Part 1


As we warned in past posts, Priority One Credit Union is now being forced to take drastic measures to try and stabilize the cycle of loss caused by President Charles R. Wiggington., Sr.'s horrendous business decisions and irresponsible behaviors. 

The credit union has now announced the planned closure of its Redlands and Valencia branches which will close at the October and November, respectively. The announcement shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has been monitoring the credit union's financials. 

In 2009, the President and Board hired Beatrice Walker as the credit union's first COO and who allegedly possessed the ability to stave off the dynamic of loss ushered in by President Wiggington. Ms. Walker is failing. 

Earlier this year, the President and Board hired Saeid Raad as the credit union's new CFO. Mr. Raad has been busy finding ways to reduce expense, manipulate financial reporting and holding off timely payment of the credit union's debts but his contributions are hardly proactive and none have improved the credit union's current plight. 

Despite all of the signs pointing the failure, the President and AVP, Rodger Smock, continue to insist business is good and growing which is of course contradicted by employee terminations, reduction of employee work hours, elimination of benefits reduced budgets and now, the impending closure of two branches. 

Trying to find a silver-lining for the planned closures, COO, Beatrice Walker, recently said that members working and residing in Santa Clarita can keep their Priority One accounts and instead of utilizing a real branch populated by real staff they can instead use Shared Branching to deposit and withdraw money. That's wonderful. So what is a member to do if they wish to obtain an loan, open an IRA, CD or for that matter, any other type of account? Will Shared Branching allow them to dispute issues with their accounts? 


Last year, Robert West was asked to rewrite the credit union's mission statement and according to President Wiggington, his protégé came up with an original statement that better conveyed the President's "vision" for t he credit union and included the terms "financial fitness center" and "win with money." A search of the Internet located the following quote from famed speak and consultant, Dave Ramsey.

“I came to realize that my money problems, worries, and shortages largely began and ended with the person in my mirror. I realized also that if I could learn to manage the character I shaved with every morning, I would win with money.

It's impossible for a credit union that can't resolve it's own financial problems to serve as any member's financial fitness center or help anyone win with money. In July the credit union finally accrued profit in the amount of $24,583. That's it. Hardly what one might expect from a financial fitness center. 


The philosophy of the credit union industry is a simple three word phrase, "People Helping People." For more than one and-a-half centuries this phrase has attempted to communicate to the world what credit unions are all about, and what is the major difference between credit unions and banks (i.e., "members helping members" vs., "bankers helping themselves").

While all credit unions, everywhere around the world have received direction and inspiration from the high ideals embodied in this simple statement, Priority One Credit Union has decided to make a bold move with regard to it: a move we believe will help you to better understand how we are different from other credit unions, as well as banksOur bold move does not involve departing from the spirit of the "people helping people" message. It involves our attempt to redefine it, and as a result, reinvent ourselves and improve our value position with you—our loyal membership.

Recently, we revised our mission statement and tag line to more clearly define what we are in the business of "helping people" to do,and communicate to the world how we want our members to think about us.   


To help our member-owners and employees achieve financial fitness. We are
committed to offering quality products and services that help you win with money.

Tag line:

Priority One Credit Union - Your Financial Fitness Center

By making these changes, it is our intent to tell you in a way that maybe we haven't before, that we are passionately committed to your total financial well being, and to transforming the credit union into a place where you will feel uniquely connected and celebrated.

Therefore, whether you need to buy a car or a home; get out of debt or avoid bankruptcy; understand and improve your credit report, or plan for your financial future, we have the resources and information to help you take control of your finances and reach your goals. Comedian Bob Hope said it best when he remarked, "A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it." As "your" credit union, we want you to experience Priority One as a place that will lend and help you win with money when you need it. This is what being Your Financial Fitness Center is all about.

Robert West
Manager Education and Training

Mr. West's message is insincere and hollow and evidently one that purposely ignores Priority One real and well-documented shortcomings. It is also relies heavily on phrases created by other authors. We recently were informed by a reader that while driving they noticed a sign advertising a game playing at a Southern California casino inviting people to come and "win with money.We also located


We're not usually superstitious but if we didn't know better, we'd think President Wiggington brought some bad juju to the once thriving credit union. Though he insists the problems facing Priority One were all caused by the U.S. economy we have to believe that his failed projects, wasted spending, and abhorrent personal behaviors might have something to do with the credit union's decline. 

In 2009, the President boasted he was going to hire a COO "to do my work." He recommended his long-time friend, Beatrice Walker, formerly of Electricore, Inc. in Santa Clarita and allegedly an expert in business development and expense reductions, to serve as his second in command. The board, actually it's Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, took the bait and hired Ms. Walker who began working at Priority One on June 1, 2009. 

However, before starting, the President, Board Chair and the new COO created a story that described how the COO read an ad in a newspaper, advertising for a COO. She replied to the add, was called in for an interview and offered employment. The purpose of the story was to emphasize that Ms. Walker never met the President prior to her date of employment. The story might have succeeded had three employee not disclosed that they saw Ms. Walker in company of the President almost one-year prior to her hiring. 

The creation of the story was completely unnecessary but the revelation of their lie says much about the character and ethics or lack thereof, of the President, Board Chair and COO. 

The hiring of Beatrice Walker has added more than $100,000 to the credit union growing debts. What's more, she's proven to be as ineffective a strategist as President Wiggington and allegedly former postal service marketing master, Diedra Harris-Brooks. We've received emails recently from people that worked with Ms. Walker at other credit unions and the allegations leveled by each person serve to further affirm that in character and abilities, she is as lethal to business as is Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. 

A reader wrote:

"I worked with Beatrice [Walker] at AIRCO FCU. When she was there, we lost a lot of money because of her mismanagement but CUMIS paid the claim and she was let go.: She's the worst and should never be hired by any credit union." 

Another reader, wrote:

"Beatrice came to work at Universal City Studios Credit Union. She was horrible. She caused division and she treated those people she was jealous of with so much contempt. Some people left because of  her and the President finally fired her because he didn't like her way of doing business."

Did the Board ask for references? Did they do a background check? Did they only hire her because she was recommended by President Wiggington? 


The late 2006 merger with Inland Counties Postal Credit Union was not only short-lived, but though a wonderful idea possessing tremendous potential, the former Riverside County credit union couldn't withstand the gross incompetence of President Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. The closure of the Redlands branch leaves the only tiny almost insignificant Riverside branch in charge of overseeing the needs of members in all of Riverside County. The Redlands branch is scheduled to close it doors on October 15, 2010. 

According to COO, Beatrice Walker, the closure of the Redlands branch and the scheduled closure of the Valencia branch at the end of October 2010, will eliminate the costly expense of paying to lease both locations. As we've asked in a previous post, why is it that the credit union had not problems paying leases while William E. Harris was President?  We expect increased closures of member accounts though recently President Wiggington stated, "I don't care if the people in Santa Clarita close their accounts. They weren't loyal to us, anyway." 

New membership openings have actually been increasing at both the Valencia and Redlands branches since early 2010, bring into the question the wisdom of Ms. Walker's decision to close both locations. 

The Redlands and Riverside branches were formerly known as Inland Counties Postal Credit Union and were founded in 1937. At the end of 2006, they merged with Priority One, an acquisition structured by former President William E. Harris and which increased Priority One's physical size by 7208 square miles and added $14 million to its Net Income and approximately 2819 new members. 

In 2007, Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. branded the merger a "mess" he was forced to inherit from President Harris but the fact is, the losses in business were the result of President Wiggington's refusal to respond to technical issues which initially affected the transfer of Inland Counties' members records into Priority One's database and his failure to market the Riverside locations. The merger was a sound idea but it failed because Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. lacked the abilities, competence, imagination and savvy to manage the vast territory. One has to remember that President is a little excuse factory and loves is possible, playing the victim to the hilt. 

The failure impacting the Riverside County locations is also attributable to Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, and later, COO, Beatrice Walker. Mrs. Harris-Brooks has spent the last three and a half years covering up the President's failures though she is responsible to ensure the upward mobility of the credit union. She too like the President is ineffectual and unqualified to serve on the Board of Directors. 

Beatrice Walker's failure is that  her abilities and competencies are pure hyperbole. In a little more than a year, she has proven that she has no idea of how to respond to the strategical needs of Riverside County and evidently, has no concept of what is required to spur growth in the Santa Clarita Valley. 

The challenge for the credit union was to connect to employees of the United States Postal Service who live and work in Riverside County. Not only was the credit union provided the opportunity to build lasting relations with this sector of postal workers, their charter allowed them to extend membership to families of postal employees. Unfortunately, the three louts had a wonderful opportunity to develop business in Riverside County, they just are destitute of all talents to do so. 

Just prior to announcing closure of the Redlands office, the President, the COO, and CFO, Saeid Raad, drove to the Redlands branch and assured the AVP assigned to that location and her mostly part-time staff that Priority One is doing well financially and business is not only good, it's actually growing but to remain solvent and to remain in business, it has become imperative to close the location. What???????? 

Clearly, the decision to close the Redlands office is directly related to the credit union's declining and fragile financial state. It is also highly improbable that closing the office whose monthly lease approximates $5300, is going to help keep Priority One solvent. The President and his COO are addicted to concocting absurd stories whose real purpose is to deceive people into thinking that everything is just great at a credit union where nothing is rarely even good. 

We recently received the following comment from a reader using the handle, "KayO" regarding the merger with Inland Counties Postal Credit Union. The fact is, Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. is foremost responsible for the failure which has now forced the scheduled closure of the Redlands branch. Based on the small physical size of the remaining Riverside branch, how long before the credit union announced it's closure? In arguably, members are not the credit union's "First Priority" nor is the credit union living up to its claim that is is a "Financial Fitness Center" possessing the ability to help members "win with money." Here is KayO's comment: 

KayO wrote:

The only one hurt in the merger was Inland Counties Postal Credit Union.

Instead of using XP system to do the conversion, they chose to do it by inputting all accounts and information, thus saving $50,000. BIG BIG mistake. 

Pertinent information was left off accounts such as joint owners, telephone numbers, loans just to name a few. Debit card where issued and to activate them, the member was to call from their home number. Unable to activate, as no phone number [appeared] on the system. Their old debit card from Inland had been shut down on Friday. So they were unable to access their funds. Checks were issued with out the joint members name on them, as this information is taken from the system. 

Retirement, Social Security and other direct deposits were not posted to account because they had not been set up correctly. The deposits were rejected and Priority made no effort to correct the rejections. They just sat back and waited until the member called wanting to know where their money was or checks had been returned because the funds were not in there account. Loans were delinquent because the transfers where not made due to funds not in their account. Late notices were sent and calls made to members. Priority One took a loss of over $60,000. due to all the errors they made in the merger.

All because they want to save $50,000 You should ask them how many accounts they lost over the merger from Inland Counties CU. This is just the tip is the iceberg of the problems that Inland Counties members suffered during the merger not to mention what their employees.

I hope NCUA does something about the board (who wanted to get paid a monthly salary, which is against the Regs) I guess they forget they are VOLUNTEERS ( UNPAID WORKERS) as described in the dictionary. They are just in it for themselves and what they can gain.

KayO is absolutely correct. Priority One chose the frugal approach in converting Inland Counties' member records. The savings of $50,000 eventually cost $100,000 to resolve. 

KayO also brings up a little known suggestion made by the Board in 2007, which asked that they be paid a salary to serve on the Board. Yes, if the suggestion had been ratified, it would have been illegal and a conflict with the industry's mandates which require voluntary board members.  

The debacle caused by the conversion was made worse by the failure of Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. to respond quickly and effectively. Instead, the lazy President ordered his staff to only respond to members who took the time to call and report problems with their new Priority One accounts. 


On Wednesday, September 8, 2010, President Wiggington and AVP, Rodger Smock, drove to Santa Clarita and informed the Valencia Branch Manager that her office would close at the end of October 2010. 

According to the President, the closure was ordered by Beatrice Walker and CFO, Saeid Raad, who decided the closure will save the credit union approximately $5500 currently being spent to lease the space. 

The decision to close the Valencia branch is grounded in something that is disturbingly emotional and grounded in obsession. The reason the President and AVP drove to Santa Clarita was to discuss a complaint filed by the Branch Manager just a few days earlier, against her supervisor, Beatrice Walker. 


In 2009, Beatrice Walker stated she was considering closing the Valencia, Redlands and Burbank branches as a means by which to increase net capital and increase profit.

She changed her mind when she visited the Branch and met the very attractive Branch Manager of the location. She immediately removed Valencia from the chopping block and for a period of several weeks and at the end of each day, Ms. Walker left her office in South Pasadena and drove to Santa Clarita which is also where she resides. 

She would sit in the Valencia branch and gossip unendingly, inviting the Branch Manager and in time, dropping by the manager's home on weekends. Employees noticed the attention being poured upon the Branch Manager and soon, the rumor mill went into full throttle. The rumors reached the ears of the President and soon afterwards, told Ms. Walker that she must remain in South Pasadena until the end of her shift. However, Ms. Walker was not dissuaded and continued in her efforts to force a friendship with the Branch Manager. 

However, the Branch Manager grew tired of Ms. Walker visiting her at her home on weekends, announced. By the way, the Branch Manager is married. However, Ms. Walker was proved tenacious and began asking the Branch Manager to show her where buys her clothes and cuts her hair. 

During the week, she would spend the day talking about the Branch Manager to her clique- Credit Resolutions Director, Yvonne Boutte, and Loan Manager, Joseph Garcia. She was smitten. 

This past January, Ms. Walker issued a notice informing all branches that the Valencia Branch Manager was going to start working at the South Pasadena branch indefinitely, at least, three-days per week. 

On the day of her arrival, the Valencia Branch manager was met by Ms. Walker at the reception desk. Ms. Walker wore a neatly pressed dark purple-colored suit, a cream colored blouse and a strand of pears. No one had seen her dress so formerly since Ms. Walker's arrival at the credit union on June 1, 2009. 

She accompanied the Branch Manager to a desk in the Loan Department and she remained sitting alongside the Branch Manager while she sat receiving training in how to fund consumer loans.  Ms. Walker's behavior did not elude the attention of employees in the Loan and Member Services Departments and further instigated rumors about her sexuality. We've got to admit, the cross-training session was unusual since Ms. Walker was not being trained to fund loans. 

Also peculiar is that the Valencia Branch Manager was to undergo training in every department at the main branch, but aside from four days spent in the Call Center, she spent the remainder of her time sitting in the Loan Department.  

During her training, Ms. Walker would visit frequently and sit at her desk, gossiping and fawning over how happy she was to have the Branch Manager at the main branch. In Ms. Walker's words, "I'm so happy that you're here with me." 


Ms. Walker usually doesn't drive to work. She travels to South Pasadena by train and has arranged being picked up each morning at the train stop in South Pasadena.

However, since she and the Valencia Branch Manager live in the Santa Clarita Valley, she asked the Branch Manager to pick her up at her home each morning so that they could drive together to work. Over the weeks, Ms. Walker grew more comfortable and when speaking about the Branch Manager, began referring her as "my driver" and "my chauffeur."   

Apparently, the Valencia Branch Manager was not receptive to the condescending label that had been placed on her by the emotionally erratic, Ms. Walker. As their working relationship grew strained, Ms. Walker began publicly mocking the Branch Manager's Spanish accent and publicly impugning her character. Rumors spread that Ms. Walker was furious that she'd been scorned by the popular and well-liked Branch Manager. 

One day, the Branch Manager did not report to work. Rumors spread that she'd been terminated because she rejected Ms. Walker's overtures for a "friendship." The rumors evidently reached Ms. Walker who informed Yvonne Boutte and Joseph Garcia that the manager left the credit union on a medical leave of absence. The two, known for their addiction to gossip, informed many other staff members and soon Ms. Walker's statements reached the staffs at all branches. 
During the manager's absence, Ms. Walker loudly plotted the termination of the Branch Manager because according to the COO, the Branch Manager was "difficult." We have to point out that Ms. Walker's verbalizations constitute a breach of confidentiality, a breach she and the President used to terminate numerous employees throughout the end of 2009 and through mid-2010.

During her absence, Ms. Walker and notorious AVP, Sylvia Perez, often visited the Valencia Branch and met with employees, asking them what they thought of the Branch Manager. One one occasion, Ms. Walker and Mrs. Perez, took the entire staff to a local bar for happy hour. 

The Branch Manager returned to work during the first week of September and five days later, Ms. Walker decided that the Valencia branch must close by the end of October 2010. The rejected Ms. Walker chose to close the Valencia branch all together rather than relocating the office and its staff to a less expensive location. Evidently, her reaction was to destroy the entire location and force the unemployment of the office's entire staff, all because she'd been jilted. On an unrelated note, Ms. Walker is almost 50 years old. 

Undeniably, Ms. Walker has not talent for creating new business or successful streams of income but she is a master at launching scathing campaigns designed to destroy those who reject her unwanted attention. 


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