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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Priority One Credit Union: The 2011 Election


It's election time again at the Priority One Credit Union and some of the seats on the Board of Directors are up for re-election. Of course, we can't forget that in 2009 and 2010, Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, ruined the integrity of the electoral process when she violated state law in her zeal to ensure none of the Directors and Supervisors lost their seats. Mrs. Harris-Brooks is immensely interested in all things political though she doesn't possess the same fervor for the well-being of the credit union, it's members and it's employees. 

This month's post provides the biographies of the current incumbents. These are the same officers who served in 2008, 2009, and 2010, when the credit union's net assets declined in the millions of dollars. Some of the officers also voted reinstatement of President Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. even though they viewed evidence proving he sexually harassed a former employee. What most of the officers lack is integrity and ethics. 

The officers have all proven pliable and easily bend to the will of Mrs. Harris-Brooks. Not one is qualified to serve on either the Board or Supervisory Committee. They each depend on the President to interpret financial data contained in the credit union's monthly financial statements. Because they are unqualified, they are all incapable of achieving what is best for the credit union, members and employees.  

Not only did the incumbents all choose to retain the employment of President Wiggington after evidence proved he sexually harassed a former employee, but it was the Board that has for over four years, approved what is wasted spending on numerous failed projects and who have intentionally ignored violations of security perpetrated by the corrupt President. Some of these include:

  • Illegally took possession of a former member’s automobile
  • An attempt to reinstate a business relationship between the credit union and Henry Justice, the former owner of Justice Sales who in 2003, absconded with more than $80,000 of credit union money
  • The hiring of COO, Beatrice Walker, at a salary of over $100,000 per year and whose "streams of income" have either failed  or performed poorly.
  • The purchase of a $600,000 technically flawed phone system
  • Remodeling of the South Pasadena and Burbank branches; and
  • Construction of what has proven to be a failed phone system
As you read the incumbent biographies, note they avoid being specific, often speaking to their qualifications in the most general of terms. 


This past week, members began receiving ballots which were mailed out late. Ballots were accompanied by a page containing the biographies and photographs of incumbents and nominees. Mrs. Harris-Brooks arranged the order of the biographies and photographs and as might be expected, her biography and photo are at the top of the list. 

In October 2009, in our post titled “Hiding Facts, Pushing Lies, we reported how the Chairperson and President attempted to limit publication of the notice mandated by the state of California which informs members about the annual election and invites members in good standing to nominate themselves to vie for available seats on the Board of Directors or Supervisory Committee. 

After their plot was exposed on this blog and in the weeks following the mailing of ballots, a meeting was conducted at Priority One’s main branch in South Pasadena, during which the Board of Directors and Supervisory Committee convened to try the remedy the illegal act committed by the Chairperson and the President. Having been given ample time to concoct an excuse, the two informed the Board that publication of the notice in only the Winter was unintentional and a mere oversight. The Supervisory Committee, whose failures to perform due diligence and who, since 2007, have turned a blind eye to the acts, scandals, and cover-ups committed by the Chairperson and the President, decided to resolve the embarrassing problem by conducting a new election. Of course this came at a time when the credit union’s financials were beginning to unravel and amidst increasing ominous signs that the credit union’s future seemed less than promising. Ballots were ordered reprinted and a letter was sent to all members advising them that the election was to be repeated and expending an invitation for nominations. New ballots were also ordered. The attempt to correct what the Chairperson and President caused came at a cost of thousands of dollars, constituting yet another financial loss resultant from the unethical acts committed by this shameful and inept duo.

During what became the “second annual” election, the Chairperson and President were joined by Director, Bobby Thomas, who oddly enough, is a representative at the National Association of Postal Carriers’ (“NALC”) Branch 24, serving as a liaison between the carrier’s union and U.S. Postal Service and whose key responsibility is to ensure adherence by the U.S. Postal service to the ratified bargaining agreement entered into with mail carriers of the U.S. Postal Service.

As we reported in 2010, Mr. Thomas solicited a nomination from a postal carrier all in an effort to reduce the amount of votes which might potentially go to David Davidson and Janice Irving. When the carrier failed to submit his application, the Chairperson mailed a letter, reminding him to submit his application BEFORE the mandated deadline.

Several days after the deadline passed, the member walked into the South Pasadena branch with his application in hand. President Wiggington ordered the application brought to him even though the deadline had expired. When handed the application,, the President happily exclaimed, “I’ve been waiting for this”. Despite evident violation of state law, the always dishonest Chairperson and President included the member’s name and biography in last year’s election. The Chairperson would later laughingly state, “We got what we wanted” even though her actions were a violation of state law and complete disregard for ethics.

During the electoral process, COO, Beatrice Walker, and her former business associate, "friend" and confidant, Yvonne Boutte, urged employees of the South Pasadena branch not vote for David L. Davidson or incumbent, Janice Irving, describing both as trouble-makes and bad for the credit union. It's more than a little hypocritical that neither woman, both of who have had a polarizing effect on the working environments of all branches, could point crooked fingers at Mr. Davidson and Mrs. Irving. 

When the election's results were announced Mr. Davidson lost by a small margin though Mrs. Irving garnered the highest number of votes amongst all the incumbents in part because current and former employees rallied on her behalf. 


Having been “outted” has never forced Harris-Brooks to alter her unethical proclivities. In fact, exposure of her illegal and unethical behaviors seems to fuel the Chairperson’s resolve to hide her tendency to violate laws. Rather ironically, it is her vigorous efforts to hide wrong doing that most attest to her malicious tendencies. 

Each incumbent and nominee is required to submit a biography and a description of the reason they wish to serve on the Board or Supervisory Committee along with their photograph. You'll note that Mrs. Harris-Brooks has made certain her biography and photograph appear first and before those of any other incumbent or nominee. 

Mrs. Harris-Brooks may not intellectually bright but she is cunning. On the backside of the page containing the names of incumbents are the names of first-time nominees which this year are former CFO, Manny Gaitmaitan, and Jimmy R. Cummings. Mr. Gaitmaitan resigned on 12/31/09 after being ostracized by the President for refusing to reduce actual reported financial losses and fraudulently increase reported profits. 

You'll also notice that the biographies for Harris-Brooks, Thomas Gathers, Richard Hale, and first-time nominee, Jimmy R. Cummings, are ALL written in the third person. Mr. Saffold’s is written in both the third and first person. We recently learned that the biographies for each incumbent were composed by Turner, Warner, Hwang, and Conrad AC. though apparently, the biographies were not proofread. 

We've also recently learned that Mrs. Harris-Brooks is the recipient of all nominations and suffered a bout of angst when she received Mr. Gaitmaitan's application. According to AVP, Rodger Smock, Mrs. Harris-Brooks consider Mr. Gaitmaitan a threat. A threat to what? Her lack of integrity or dishonest proclivities? According to President Wiggington, Mr. Gaitmaitan was interviewed by the Board at which time, he was asked questions composed by CFO, Saeid Raad. According to the President, the questions were designed to disqualify Mr. Gaitmaitan from participating in the election. Their plot failed.

Unable to control her dishonest proclivities, the always corrupt Board Chair sent all but Mr. Gaitmaitan's biographies to be rewritten by
Turner, Warner, Hwang, and Conrad AC which is why Mr. Gaitmaitan’s biography is shorter and written in the first not third person.

On the positive side, we wouldn't be able to write about Mrs. Harris-Brooks if weren't for her incessant need to tamper with the electoral process. 

Also, this year's ballots were intentionally mailed late. According to the always talkative President, if the ballots were mailed late, this would reduce the amount of time members would have to respond and return these to Turner, Warner, Hwang, and Conrad AC.  By the way, the ballots must be submitted to the accounting firm, no later than  midnight, May 24, 2011


As you read through the biographies which follow, please note that Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks' biographies is being far too modes. She fails to mention that it was she who single-handedly orchestrated the reinstatement of Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. to his post as President and CEO even after an investigator from EXTTI, Inc. provided evidence proving he sexually harassed a former employee. It was also she, who tried to suppress the evidence against Mr. Wiggington which might have succeeded had Director, Janice Irving, not disclosed that he had been found guilty of violating federal law. 

  • She also make no mention of her plot to control which members received notification of the 2009 and 2010 elections or her efforts to ensure former Director, David L. Davidson, was not reinstated. She also fails to mention how she allowed member, Jeffrey M. Chen, to submit his nomination application more than a week after the deadline for submissions  had passed. 

  • She also omits all reference to how she authorizing more than $600,000 to be spent on a technically defective phone systems and how in mid-2008, she authorized the borrowing of more than $20 million from the credit union's line-of-credit which forced the credit union to spend more than $30,000 to $58,000 each month, paying interest charges against the principle. 

  • It was also Mrs. Harris-Brooks who allowed the President to refuse posting of the credit union's Monthly Income Statements in "conspicuous locations within each branch" even though refusing to post the statements was a violation of state law. 

  • She also omits any reference to the fact that she and the Board ignored evidence that President Wiggington repossessed an automobile from former member, Mr. Danny Wafa, and afterwards, transferred ownership to his name without paying a cent for the vehicle. Yes, it was fraud, but the board not only ignored the illegality of the transaction but has year after year, granted the President raises. 
  • She also fails to mention that while she has served as Board Chair, the credit union's asset size has declined by more than $15 million. 

  • She also conveniently omits that while she's been Board Chair, the credit union has closed the Redlands and Valencia branches. 


Here is a summary of the credit union's asset worth as occurring while Diedra Harris-Brooks has served as the Board's Chairperson.

January 1, 2007
(On the date Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. began serving as President)
December 31, 2007
$166, 872, 190

December 31, 2008
Total asset worth after applying $20 million loan borrowed in mid-2008 from the credit union's line-of-credit
(Actual asset worth: $152,119,164)

December 31, 2009

The credit union paid $10 million of the $20 million borrowed in mid-2008, thus reducing their asset size $155,835,129. This constitutes a decline in assets of approximately $17 million since January 1, 2007, the date Charles R. Wiggington his appointment to President. 
December 31, 2010

Their actual asset size was $145,486,638 after deducting the remaining unpaid $10 million balance due on the $20 million loan borrowed in mid-2008 from the credit union's line-of-credit.

Mrs. Harris-Brooks, like the President, has proven to be plutonium to the credit union. Despite her unscrupulous behaviors and immense business failures, she has garnered the gall to again run to defend her seat on what has to be one of the industry's most ineffective Boards. 



Mrs. Harris-Brooks is not just the Board's Chair, she is it's despot and has proven she will not tolerate Directors who disagree with her mode of administration, i.e., Robb Shipley, Dave Davidson, Janice Irving. 

In her biography she emphasizes that she is "approaching" her 9th year as a Director of the Board and has served as it's Director for 6 years. That actually might be impressive if the credit union had grown and thrived under her leadership. The fact is, Priority One never thrived because of her and the other Directors. If she truly were a competent Director, then the credit union would have continued to grow after 12/31/06, the date William E. Harris retired as President and CEO of the then, $172 million credit union. The credit union's decline began on 1/01/07 the date Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. became President and inarguably, she and the other Directors don't possess the knowledge, intelligence, or imagination to direct the credit union. 

She also states that she attended the University of Phoenix where she "completed Business Management and Marketing courses and holds a 3.5 GPA. Her knowledge and marketing skills has proven to be an asset to Priority One." Actually, it should have stated, "Her knowledge in marketing and computer skills have proven to be assets to Priority One." 

Mrs. Harris-Brooks provide no evidence of what knowledge she is referring to. Clearly, it's not financial knowledge. And what marketing skills? The former Retail Manager at the United States Postal Service never references where she studied marketing or what she's ever accomplished in marketing. Her statements are not evidenced by anything that would validate her claims. 

She again provides absolutely nothing to prove she held a 3.5 GPA while enrolled in classes offered by the University of Phoenix. Based on her performance as Board Chair, we doubt her statement but of course are open to looking at the evidence of what she alleges. 

And what computer skills is she referring to? This is such a general statement that it really says nothing about her alleged expertise. 

Mrs. Harris-Brooks biography also states “she left a 20-year legacy of exceptional managerial service and earned the respect of her employees” before retiring from the U.S. postal service. We'll have to take her word on that and of course, we won't. We've spoken to some employees of the Los Angeles Postal Distribution Center on the corner of Florence and Central Avenues who had worked for and with Mrs. Harris-Brooks and many describe her as caustic and haughty. She also was not on friendly terms with the Postal Manager of the facility, James Smith. 

What's more, this is the same woman who tampered with the 2009 and 2010 elections and who reinstated Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. after he was found guilty of sexually harassing a former employee. How then could anyone respect Mrs. Harris-Brooks?
She concludes by stating she “continues to expand her knowledge of the operations of this credit union and is looking forward to continuing her voluntary services to the Board of Directors, Priority One Executive staff, employees, and members.” Since 2007, we've seen absolutely nothing to attest that her knowledge of the credit union's operation is expanding or that she is committed to serving the credit union and in particular, employees and members. Mrs. Harris-Brooks is of course, lying. 

From a business perspective, is the credit union's $100,000 CD which pays 0.00% an example of her wonderful financial savvy? We think it's time Mrs. Harris-Brooks leave and try selling her wares to people who don't know her and who are ignorant of her devices. 




Thomas Gathers panders to Diedra Harris-Brooks. That seems to define the extent of his contributions to the Board. He, like Mrs. Harris-Brooks, has bent over backwards to ensure Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. remains President even in the light of evidence that Mr. Wiggington violated state and federal laws. If we could describe Mr. Gathers in one word, it might be fixture. He just occupies a chair on the Board and unless he can provide proof, he is a non-contributor to the betterment of the credit union. In 2008, he was one of four officers who voted to reinstate his "friend", Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. to his post as President, even though he was presented with evidence proving Mr. Wiggington sexually harassed a former employee and in spite of the fact the investigator from EXTTI, Inc. recommended the President's termination. Mr. Gathers is a tool. 

Mr. Gather’s biography states he is “currently serving as the Chairperson of the Bylaws Committee…. and various other committees.” Which various other committees is he referring to? He is as general in his references as is the Board Chair. We're uncertain why he chose to disclose that he attends “Holy Trinity Lutheran Church” when he often uses profanity, ogles female employees of the South Pasadena branch and is often the brunt of jokes by the other Directors who mock his personal hygiene. 


The incumbent has at times, found it difficult to attend Board meetings, in part, because he resides in Riverside, California, miles away from Priority One’s South Pasadena office. This begs us to ask, “Why then are you on the Board if you can’t attend on a regular basis?” His absences should have resulted in his removal from the Board, but then again, President Wiggington’s embarrassing conduct and long record of failures, should have led to his termination. 

According  to his biography, Mr. Hale has served as a member of the Board “for many years.” How many years, Mr. Hale? 

He alleges to have “devoted a considerable amount of his personal time to the credit union and understands financials needs of its members.How much personal time, Mr. Hale? And if you understand financials, then please explain in detail versus general terms, why the credit union has lost millions of dollars in assets over the past four years? And why would the credit union have deemed it necessary to close the Redlands and Valencia branches in 2010, if Mr. Hale's financial knowledge was at it's disposal? 



Mr. Saffold is known by some employees for his 2006 statement that he selected Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. to succeed former President, William E. Harris, because "the credit union needs a black President." Not exactly a Rhodes Scholar, Mr. Saffold chose skin color over competency. Nothing racist about that, is there? 

Mr. Saffold also spent years expounding his belief that O.J. Simpson was targeted by the White man and was innocent of his former wife's murder. Why he deemed this an appropriate subject to discuss while at the credit union is inappropriate and inexplicable. 

His biography states the brings “a broad range of American economic and social expertise to the POCU Board of Directors.” General and in his words, "broad", Mr. Saffold doesn't state specifically what alleged "American economic expertise" he brings to the Board of Directors. Well? He is as evasive in stating he brings "social expertise to the POCU Board of Directors." What social expertise and where, pray tell, has it been applied in elevating the organization? 

Mr. Saffold's alleged expertise is certainly not attested to by the credit union's current financial state which is less than stellar. Mr. Saffold is a postal carrier. He was the supervisor of the postal carrier unit at the facility where he worked but following cut-backs implemented by the postal services, was offered a position to serve as a carrier or be laid-off. He accepted the former. We're surprised that he alleged expertise didn't garner him an executive position at the postal service. 
Mr. Saffold also states he is "steadfastly involved in the financial and member service improvements implemented by Priority One Credit Union.” Steadfastly? The credit union is in decline. Does this mean that Mr. Saffold's alleged involvement in delving out financial improvements is failing? Currently, complaints citing poor member service are at an all-time high. Should we blame Mr. Saffold's so called involvement for the deterioration of member service standards. 

Mr. Saffold was also one of the four officers who voted for reinstatement of Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. even though evidence proved he sexually harassed a former female employee. It was also Mr. Saffold who along with Diedra Harris-Brooks, who agreed to hire caustic COO, Beatrice Walker. 


Mr. Gaitmaitan's biography was not composed by Turner, Warren, Hwang and Conrad. Unlike the biographies of the incumbents, Mr. Gaitmaitan's was kept intentionally brief by Mrs. Harris-Brooks. 

In his biography, Mr. Gaitmaitan states:

”I was the Chief Financial Officer of Priority One Credit Union for 19 years. Mr. William Harris took me into the Credit Union when its name was still Postal Credit Union of Los Angels. I would like to save the Credit Union and can share my over 30 years of financial background. The Credit Union needs my help.”

We would have to agree with Mr. Gaitmaitan. Unlike Diedra Harris-Brooks, Thomas Gathers, Richard Hale or O. Glen Saffold, he actually possesses financial knowledge. Mr. Gaitmaitan is not perfect but he understand Priority One's operation and proved while serving as CFO, that ethics are critical to his performance and business decisions. 

While employed by Priority One, he also oversaw the Accounting Department and credit union investments. He was also involved in strategic planning and project management. He also introduced strategies that reduced spending and risks and revised business designs. Some of his contributions included:  
  • Elimination of fees paid by Priority One to the Credit Union COOP and instead, transferring maintenance of ATM’s to the credit union. This resulted in savings approximating $100,000 per year; and
  • Conversion of the Wide Area Network Computer system into Voice-over-Internet Protocol (IP) which resulted in an approximate decrease of phone costs by about $100,000 per year.
Unlike each incumbent, Mr. Gaitmaitan did not try to avoid alluding to specifics. That's because unlike the four incumbents, he has nothing to hide. 

 The four incumbents provide nothing specific to evidence their claims to expertise and knowledge. The proof of their performance is best attested to by the financial losses bombarding the credit union over the past 4-years. Their addresses are empty and each, is a ruse hoping members will embrace what they claim to have achieved, at face value. 

In the end, it's the members who will determine whether or not the four horrendous and ignorant officers remain on the Board or are removed. If the credit union is ever to regain its competitive edge, it requires the removal of these four officers. 

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