Next Post

AROUND June 7, 2016.


Our Readership: U .S., Ukraine, Russia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Poland, Malta, Malaysia, Laos, Canada, Greece, Turkey, Sweden, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Portugal, Morocco and more!



Sunday, May 25, 2014

THE 2014 ELECTION EDITION, Part 2 of 2

As has become a normal part of business at Priority One Credit Union in South Pasadena, California, the months of April and May were not without incident.

During the month of April, the credit union began receiving calls from other financial institutions inquiring about cashier checks containing Priority One's but which were proved to be counterfeit. This latest incident is just another of  a list of illegal incidents afflicting the credit union over the past 7 years. 

The checks were quickly identified as fraudulent by the credit union. These all contain erroneous information printed on the check's front panel, including an incorrect street address for the credit union's main office in South Pasadena. The gravity of this latest incident was sufficient to prompt President Wiggington to monitor the amount of times the credit union is contacted on a daily basis by institutions who receive the fraudulent instruments. 

However, overshadowing the latest incident is the fact the credit union is again the focus of negative attention and though the credit union is not in any way involved with the distribution of the fraudulent checks, it serves to add to the number of incidents involving fraud and violations at Priority One Credit Union over the past 7 years. This also brings attention to the credit union's security protocols. The number of compromises afflicting Priority One's protocols have increased exponentially since January 1, 2007, the date Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. was appointed President and CEO of the no longer growing credit union. 

But is it Sincere?

Since March, President Wiggington has donned a quieter, less boastful demeanor and ceased bragging about the credit union's non-existent success. We've also noticed that Vice President, Patricia Loiacano, has desisted from declarations that business is doing well at a credit union where closing branches has become a normal staple in ensuring Priority One's survival. So should we construe this apparent change in demeanor and seemingly more contrite positioning, as a genuine change in attitude? 

This past March, the credit union's attorney issued warnings to the President, his executive staff, the Board Chair, and former COO, Beatrice Walker, warning that they begin exacting efforts to guard confidentiality and desist from slandering the reputations of current and past employees. Of course, the directive assumes that the body of managers possesses the ability to exercise self-discipline and refrain from divulging information originating from the credit union's inner sanctum. We've learned that the four lawsuits filed by former employees finally took a tremendous toll upon the credit union's batter reputation though it took the credit union's overpaid attorney to order a cessation of the executive and managerial sector's abhorrent behaviors. Evidently, it never occurred to the obstreperous President and his equally undisciplined staff of officers that they must conduct themselves in a manner that is dignified, professional and above-reproach. 

We of course expect the President to fall back on his old behaviors sometimes in the not so distant future as he is an immovable creature of habit and professional decorum is not his strong suit. 

Covering Their Ass

In his continued effort to implement remedial but superficial efforts to correct the credit union's numerous internal problems, President Wiggington has once again, shuffled the responsibilities of two of the credit union's officers. In his latest move, the President removed Vice President, Patricia Loiacano's authority over compliance and amended her title to Vice President of Lending. He also transferred compliance to Employee Services (aka Human Resources) Director, Robert West. 

The decision to RETURN Ms. Loiacano to lending makes sense as she is well versed in the principles and procedures governing real estate and consumer loan funding. However, one has to wonder why the chronically glib President has moved Mrs. Loiacano around and placed her in positions she was ill qualified to serve in. Over the years, we've failed to find anything that could lend a clue to the methods employed by the President to his apparent madness, 

In 2008, President Wiggington promoted Mrs. Loiacano from Assistant to the AVP of Lending to AVP of Lending.  His promotion of Mrs. Loiacano caused an immediate and permanent rift in the relationship between the President and then AVP of Lending who became incensed that the President did not first confer with him before deciding to promote Mrs. Loiacano. In what can only be described as a hizzy fit, the AVP of Lending left the credit union on what was to be a temporary personal leave of absence but when he tried to return to work, several months later, the President with the help of EVP, Rodger Smock, dredged up several complaints filed by employees against Mr. Cavazos in the years before being appointed AVP of Lending, and used these to justify termination of the AVP.  

In 2009, the President added authority over compliance to Mrs. Loiacano's assigned responsibilities, despite the fact she had absolutely no experience in anything related to compliance. The President also ordered the removal of the more experienced and knowledgeable Bank Secrecy Specialist and after her expulsion, hired a temporary contracted Bank Secrecy Specialist to assist Mrs. Loiacano.  

On June 1, 2009, the President hired Beatrice Walker as the credit union's first COO. Within a few weeks following her arrival, Ms. Walker informed the President that Mrs. Loiacano could not simultaneously oversee compliance and lending because according to state auditors, the dual appointment was deemed a conflict of interest and illegal.  

Though Mrs. Loiacano is an authority of real estate and consumer lending the President transferred authority over lending to the then Supervisor of the Call Center, Joseph Garcia, despite Mr. Garcia having no prior experience in real estate or consumer loan funding. Mrs. Loiacano was named AVP of Compliance though she had no formal experience in anything related to compliance.  

The President deemed it prudent to assign compliance to his confidant, Director of Employee Services, Robert West, despite the fact Mr. West has no previous experience in anything related to compliance. 

Don't expect this to turn out well. Historically , the President's bombastic and illogical decisions exacerbate the credit union's immense problems. Evidently, neither the President or the Board has ever learned that one always reaps what they sow.  

In our last post, we reported upon the adverse affect Priority One’s  Board of Directors and in particular, its Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, have had upon the once growing credit union. As reported previously, in 2009 and 2010, Mrs. Harris-Brooks and President Wiggington interfered and tainted the credit union's electoral process, all in an effort to retain the Board's dynamic comprised of Directors who are subservient to the Chair and President.  Since 2010, we've noted a dramatic decline in nominations submitted by members to vie for a seat in the credit union's annual election. The apparent apathy towards the the credit union's future parallels the immense problems the credit union continues to experience in garnering member interest in its products and services. 

As should come as no surprise, this year not a single nomination was received by the credit union, retaining the Board safely in place just as the Board Chair and President planned back in 2009 and 2010. However, in their efforts to retain a compliant Board comprised of submissive Directors, the Board Chair and President injured the allegiance members once felt for the credit union which is attested to in the closure of 6 of 9 branches since October 2010.

Their need to preserve a compliant Board allowed Mrs. Harris-Brooks to sanction many of the President's decisions which contributed to the credit union's financial erosion. What's more, it was Mrs. Harris-Brooks who approved expenditures which ultimately taxed the credit union's coffers and reduced its Net Income, its ability to successfully market its products, maintain service standards, and provide members with convenience once enjoyed in the many years before Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. was appointed President. Spending approved by Mrs. Harris-Brooks includes:
  • More than $70,000 spent on installing a Call Center whose performance has by abysmal and exacerbated the credit union's inability to provide a high standard of member service. 
  • More than $100,000 spent since 2009 on consultants, all of whose suggestions failed to dispel the credit union's business and morale issues.
  • In 2010, then COO, Beatrice Walker, recommended the hiring of her friend, Saeid Raad, to serve as temporary CFO until a new CFO was hired. 6 months later, Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, approved hiring of Mr. Raad because he had fully complied with all directives issued to him by the President, the CFO, and the Board Chair. Mr. Raad was terminated earlier this year for failing to satisfactorily implement strategies that produced profit. 
  • More than $500,000 spent since October 2010 on legal fees needed to defend the credit union in lawsuits filed by former employees and a members whose confidential account and personal information were published on the Internet by an officer of the credit union.
  • More than $40,000 spent to refurbish the main branch in South Pasadena and the no longer existent, Burbank branch.
  • More than $200,000 spent during the years of 2009-2012 on salaries paid to a COO and CFO, both who were eventually terminated for failing to satisfactorily fulfill their assigned duties; and
  • More than $300,000 spent by President Wiggington on the installation of an AVP sector. Most of the AVPs failed as a result of a lack of experience and qualifications to carryout their assigned responsibilities. The expense and failed sector met its demise in February 2013, when the last standing AVP was terminated for allegedly embezzling monies from member accounts. 
These wide misappropriations of credit union monies are coupled with the bloated salaries paid to President Wiggington and his executive staff including Executive Vice President, Rodger Smock; Vice President, Yvonne Boutte; Business Development Representative, Joseph Garcia*; and Director of Employee Services and now, Compliance, Robert West.

*Joseph Garcia is the former Call Center Supervisor, Real Estate and Consumer Loan Manager, Credit Manager, Assistant to the Chief Lending Officer, AVP of Sales and Business Development. In his latest incarnation, he serves as Priority One's sole Business Development Representative. 


Following publication of our last post, we received three emails from members asking if the Los Angeles branch is scheduled to close within the next three months. We don't have any information that the branch is slated for closure at anytime in the near future. It is also the only one of the credit union's three remaining branches that attracts the largest amount of member traffic, making it unlikely that it will close at anytime soon. 

Businesses should always be concerned when rumors arise that their business is failing or as in the case of Priority One, that some of its branches are targeted for closure. Clearly, members are reasonably associating the closure of 6 branches since October 2010, the deterioration of member service, and the elimination of the business development team with impending closure. 

As recently as this past January, the President described business as "great" ignoring the fact Priority One has decreased in size since he became President in 2007 or that member complaints have not abated and continue to cite poor member service. Add to this that Priority One is no longer a visible presence in the communities it serves nor can the credit unionn be viewed as competitive. 

Since 2009, the President attributed the credit union's business failures on the economy, on high unemployment and on "haters" actively seeking the credit union's demise. The closures of the Airport and Santa Clarita branches should serve to dispel any of his imaginary reasons why business is failing. 

In 2008, the President was found guilty of sexually harassing a former employee which cannot be attributed to the economy, unemployment or "haters." During the years of 2010-2012, the credit union was sued four times by former employees and by a member. Each lawsuit accused the credit union of harassment, discrimination, retaliation and slander, accusations that were not the product of the economy, unemployment or the creation of an invisible band of "haters." 

Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, efforts over the years, to cover-up wrong doing committed by President Wiggington and some of his staff and her participation in plots that victimized certain targeted employees who were labeled enemies of the President's regime, were fueled by her undisciplined emotional need to assert her authority and ensure her dominance and control were firmly secured. However, her zeal to maintain control contributed to the ruination of the once respected credit union. 

In a few days, the credit union will conduct its annual meeting which usually begins and ends within 30 minutes and during which, the Board Chair and President pronounce their verdict that the credit union's is not only doing well but performing according to plan. The meetings are nothing more than a PR effort to create the impression that the credit union performed well during the preceding year but that the future looks promising. At least that's the generic forecast presented during the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 annual meetings. Of course, the annual declaration that all is well is sharply undermined by the credit union's own well-documented performance recording loss after loss. Evidently, the President and Board Chair choose to view the credit union's lackluster performance through rose-colored glasses.

Revisiting the President's and Board Chair's Address published in the 2012 Annual Report. 

In May 2013, copies of the credit union's 2012 Annual Report were distributed to attendees 

If the past years are an indicator of anything, expect the 2014 annual meeting to be saturated with embellishments that try to deter attention from the credit union's ongoing failures. Expect the Board Chair to nervously expound about the non-existent strides made by the credit union in 2013 while completing avoiding the subject of 6 branch closures including one in December 2013 and another in January 2014. She may even declare that Net Income increased during the year, though a quick look at either the credit union's monthly Income Statements or quarterly Financial Performance Reports available at, will reveal that in spite of forced reductions in spending including branch closures, net income is still millions of dollars below what it was on January 1, 2007, the day Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. began his infamous and embarrassing stint as President and CEO of the now much smaller credit union.  

However, evidence of the truthfulness of what the Board Chair and President expound upon is easily obtained by revising the credit union's 2012 Annual Report, issued in May 2013. The statements made by the Board Chair and President conveyed their opinions of how the credit union was projected to perform in 2013. 

In May 2013, the credit union distributed its annual report for the year 2012 and inappropriately titled, A Brighter Future Ahead. Seven months following distribution of the report, the credit union permanently closed the doors to its Airport branch which had only been in business for less than 3 years. A little more than a month later, the credit union permanently closed the doors to its Santa Clarita branch and shortly afterwards, terminated CFO, Saeid Raad. Clearly, the future proved to be far less bright than the Board Chair and President had hoped for.

In the first paragraph of their address, the President and Board Chair's submit 4 declarations about the credit union's in 2012. According to the credit union's two highest officers, Priority One made progress in the following areas: 
  • The credit union was maintained “safe and sound”
  • Operating expenses were reduced
  • Net Income improved


In what appears to be an attempt to pull the proverbial wool over member and employee eyes, the Board Chair and President stated Net Income improved.  

In the very report containing their statement that Net Income improved, the credit union provides the amount of verified or audited Net Income for the period ending 3/31/12 and projected or unaudited Net Income for the period ending 3/31/13. As shown below, Net Income was projected to decline. Though a projected decline was quite clearly shown, both the Board Chair and President chose to pull a fast one and proclaim an increase in Net Income when clearly, a project loss was anticipated. It took tremendous gall to state growth and document an expected loss in the same report. So did the two officers believe few people would ever read the financials provided in the 2012 report or do they believe members lack the ability to comprehend financials? 

What's more and as shown below, the credit union's assets declined during the period of 12/31/12 through 12/31/13: 
  • Total Assets for the quarter ending 3/31/12 totaled $160,967,331
  • Total Assets for the quarter ending 3/31/13 totaled $152,938,281
Total Assets reported for the quarter ending 3/31/14 totaled $153,942,384. This is a slight increase from what was reported for the quarter ending 3/31/13 but approximately $7 million less than what was reported at the end of March 31, 2012. 


In February 2013, just 3 months before the 2012 Annual Report was made public, an audit conducted at the Los Angeles branch revealed monies had been embezzled from member accounts, allegedly by the AVP assigned overseeing that office and the no longer existent Airport branch. In spite of the audit's finding, both the Board Chair and President had no qualms in publishing a statement that asserted they maintained a sound and safe credit union. Nothing could have been further from the truth. 

What's more, to date, charges have not been filed against the former AVP. So did she abscond with member funds and if so, why has a credit union that allegedly maintains a sound and safe operation, chosen not to file charges? 

However, the ability by the credit union to maintain a sound and safe credit union is highly suspect. In 2010, a 3-week audit of the Los Angeles branch’s records confirmed a former receptionist of that office embezzled approximately $60,000 from Member accounts. At the time, the receptionist was no longer an employee of the credit union, having left on maternity leave and never returned.  

Exposure of the 2010 thefts occurred ONLY AFTER a member contacted Priority One and advised them money had been taken from her CD without her authorization, bringing focus to the credit union's actual ability to protect member assets and provide a "safe and sound" credit union. One has to wonder, why an organization with security measures in place seems to have missed major incidences of internal thefts. Are employees being properly trained? Who is in charge of ensuring security protocols are being implemented on a daily basis? In early 2009,  the person overseeing operations was Rodger Smock, so why didn't the senior officer identify suspicious account activity? 

In late 2009, then COO, Beatrice Walker oversaw operations, yet she, like Mr. Smock, seemed oblivious to activities pointing to internal thefts.

How the President bungled 
covering up an investigation and audit 

There is no arguing that in his 7 years as President and CEO of Priority One Credit Union, Charles R. Wiggington, Sr.'s tenure has been marred by immense business failures and embarrassing scandals. In February 2013, the President created a ruse covering up knowledge that more internal thefts had been perpetrated at the Los Angeles branch by yet another employee. The President hoped to keep knowledge of the thefts from members, most employees, and bloggers. 

The President's cover-up proved to be yet another bombastic attempt by the President to hide evidence pointing to a deficiency in the credit union's ability to protect member assets. The February 2013 audit confirmed that embezzlement had again occurred at the Los Angeles branch. On March 1, 2014, the credit union issued a notice to all employees via the company's Intranet, advising them that Lynette Fortson, the AVP overseeing the Los Angeles and Airport branches, was no longer an employee of the credit union. Ms. Fortson had been an employee of Priority One for approximately 40 years. 

Here is a detailed description of the investigation and plot hatched by President Wiggington in an effort to cover-up the incident. It is important to note that 3 months after an audit proved monies had been absconded from member accounts, the Board Chair and President issued an address in the annual report, asserting that the credit union was found to be "safe and secure." 


On Friday, February 1, 2013, Priority One posted a notice on their Intranet, on their Facebook page and on the door to the Los Angeles branch, informing members and employees that the branch would not be opening due to a “power failure.”

The Los Angeles branch location is owned by the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) and is part of the massive Los Angeles Postal Distribution Center located on the corner of Central and Florence Avenues in Los Angeles. What many members of the plan found peculiar on that Friday was that no other sector of the plant suffered a “power failure.” What’s more, inside the branch, members reported seeing lights on and employees working. 

During the morning of Friday, February 1st, internal Auditor, Diane Huffman, arrived at the Los Angeles branch where she proceeded to audit records.  

Curious, we contacted the Los Angeles Distribution Center’s Administrative offices located inside the plant and asked if any part of the facility had been affected by a power failure. We were told no power failures had been reported and that if any had occurred, they as owners and managers of the property, would have known about these. 

On the morning of Monday, February 4, 2013, the branch remained closed and the credit union again posted another message stating that the alleged “power failure” continued. Despite their disclosure, employees were seen inside the office and the lights remained on.

During the afternoon of the 4th, employees of the Credit Resolutions and Accounting Departments learned that Vice President, Yvonne Boutte, who had been working out of the Los Angeles branch for several days, called and confided to one of her subordinates that money had again been embezzled from the Los Angeles branch. According to Mrs. Boutte, the monies had been withdrawn from member accounts. According to Mrs. Boutte, the thefts were internal. 

In the afternoon of February 4, 2013, the credit union posted a revised message on their Intranet and Facebook page advising readers that the Los Angeles branch would open again for business on Tuesday, February 5, 2013. Evidently, the credit union resolved its non-existent power failure.

During the evening of February 4, 2013, at 6:27 p.m., an anonymous poster posted the following cryptic message on this blog: 

If you only knew what was really happening at LAPDC. Very Heavy. A lot more than you know. That's all I'm saying. 

The branch was allegedly was closed on Friday 1, 2013, for the entire day, due to a power outage. 

On Monday, February 4, 2013, the branch remained closed for the entire day. The credit union posted notices on their Intranet and web and Facebook pages, disclosing that the office remained closed due to a power outage. 

The Los Angeles branch remained closed for part of Tuesday, February 5, 2013 though opening later that afternoon only after the credit union published yet another notice, this time disclosing the cause of the outage had been repaired. 

On March 1, 2013, the credit union posted a notice on their Intranet, advising employees that the AVP assigned to the Los Angeles and Airport branches had left the credit union. Despite having been an employee of Priority One for approximately 40 years, the credit union did not conduct a farewell or retirement party, suggesting that her departure was a result of having been terminated. 

The branch's closure and the reason why the AVP left the credit union would have remained a mystery had the President not temporarily reassigned Vice President, Yvonne Boutte, to the Los Angeles branch. At the time of her arrival, Mrs. Boutte disclosed she had been sent to the branch to investigate  complaints filed by members, alleging problems with the level of member service being dispensed by employees of that office. Mrs. Boutte also disclosed that the AVP voluntarily left the credit union on vacation because she did not want to be present while Mrs. Boutte remained at the Los Angeles branch.  

By Friday, March 11, 2013, gossip originating at the South Pasadena branch, revealed thefts had occurred at Los Angeles branch. According to employees, Vice President, Yvonne Boutte, revealed that an audit of that office's records found that thefts had been perpetrated by the former AVP assigned to oversee the Los Angeles and Airport branches. 

Not only did the President fail to cover-up the fact of the thefts, subsequent audit and eventual termination of the AVP, but the incident fueled widespread gossip amongst employees of all branches. What's more, only three months following completion of the audit, the credit union issued its 2012 Annual Report in which the President and Board Chair declare that Priority One is a "secure and safe" credit union- a statement which in retrospect, proves to be an utter distortion of the truth.  

"We continue to reduce 
operating expenses"

The Board Chair's and President's statement describing the reduction of expenses creates an impression that the Board, its Board Chair, and the President, on their own volition and proactively, implemented measures that reduced expenses. Any such impression is incorrect and definitely, misleading.

Beginning in 2010, outside auditors advised the President and then COO, Beatrice Walker, that the credit union must reduce spending. They instructed the officers to identify branches that were not performing well.  They were also told to consider the amount being spent to lease the spaces occupied by these branches. If the amount of business being generated at those locations could not justify the continued amount being spent to lease the properties, then those branches would be placed marked for closure. 

In 2010, the credit union closed the Redlands and Valencia branches whose leases exceeded $5000 per month but the December 2013 closing of the Airport branch and January 2014 closure of the Santa Clarita branch are less easily understood as the amount to lease each property owned by the United States Postal Service, approximated $1.00 per year. 

The introduction of drastic spending cut-backs has become a way of life for a credit union that describes itself as a financial fitness center.  The reliance on expense reductions is almost addictive and a key means by which Priority One is able to continue in business, albeit it a much smaller and less competitive credit union. 

The Board Chair and President expounded at length about the successful introduction of improvements to Priority One's home banking system and implementation of its "first-ever" mobile banking apps for iPhone and Android smart phones. They also describe revamping of the credit union's webpage (, yet amidst their declarations, neither offers evidence that could lend credence that the enhancements have resulted in growth, the obtainment of new business or increased membership.

They also state that "Hundreds of members have taken advantage of Mobile Banking." Hundreds is hardly impressive when one considers that Priority One allegedly has more than 28,000 members.  In the year since the 2012 Annual Report was issued, how many of Priority One's 28,000 members actually utilize online and telephone banking? How many are recipients of e-statements? And how many have applied for loans and other products as a direct result of the credit union's revamped webpage?

The Board Chair and President proceed, describing how the overhauled website resulted in improved navigation and dissemination of information as well as provided an improved means by which to inform members of current promotions. So how many members have applied and more importantly, how many have funded loans as a direct result of improved navigation using the credit union's website? 

The two offices conclude by stating that launching “new home banking, e-statements, and website” enabled Priority One to “rebrand the entire Internet experience?” How so? Certainly, there is nothing outside of their address lending credence to any of their statements. Before Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. was appointed President the credit union's tagline was, "You are our first priority". At the time, the credit union was known to place the needs of its members at the forefront and proved that they were a credit union where members were more than just participants in the organization- they were family. So in 2014, what is Priority One's brand? It certainly isn't its revamped website. The closure of 6 of 9 branches since October 2010 suggests Priority One is not living its brand, whatever that brand may be. 

The officers conclude by asking, “What’s ahead for the upcoming year?” As disclosed previously in this post, just 3 months prior to the 2013 Annual Meeting, the credit union conducted an audit discovering that monies were embezzled from the Los Angeles branch, allegedly by that office's AVP. 

However, five months prior to the 2013 Annual Meeting, the credit union terminated CLO, Cindy Garvin after only 17 months of employment and allegedly because she failed to fulfill her assigned responsibilities including implementing strategies that resulted in increased new business.

Approximately 6 months following the 2013 Annual Meeting, the credit union closed the doors to its Airport branch. 

In answer to the question, "What's ahead for the upcoming year?", we have to assume, continued losses and at some point in the future, the closure of yet another branch. There is no reason to believe otherwise.

The Board Chair and President continued, optimistically stating, “We will continue to deliver the best products and services to our members”, yet since 2010, the credit union has closed branches each year indicating that just maybe, Priority One doesn't deliver the best products and services

Factors contributing to Priority One's current plight include the bludgeoning of what once was a prize-winning Marketing Department under his predecessor and the obliteration of a income-generating Business Development Department which he replaced with a single Business Development Representative who has since January 2013, only accrued approximately $30,000 of his $150,000 assigned monthly sales quota. 

The President has also strained relations with the credit union's once largest sector of members- employees of the United States Postal Service. And though he attends the bi-monthly meetings conducted at the National Association of Letter Carriers- Branch 24, he is rarely allowed to speak to attendees. 

The Board Chair and President promise to add future improvements to the credit union's website but the site is not a channel through which substantial levels of new business are being generated. They also promise to introduce a 2.0 version of the credit union's mobile apps, though the announcement either presumed the mobile apps would be a source of lots of new business or they as usual, are ignoring logistics and opting for what they construe to be true.

In their address, the two state the revamped website will inform members of current and upcoming promotions. Here is an image of the current page where promotions should appear:


We are actually looking forward to the upcoming annual meeting, anxious to hear and read what so-called accomplishments were made by the credit union in 2013 and what improvements are planned for 2014. True, it will be nothing more than hyperbole and 100% disingenuous,  but at this juncture in the credit union's decline, the ridiculous stories fabricated by the President and Board Chair can only be viewed as outrageous fiction. 

Not Quite the Mother Lode

In 2012, the President hired consultants to draw up a proposal that would be presented to the state of California and request a community charter in the city of South Pasadena.

Though the credit union has been located in South Pasadena for many years, it could only offer membership to employees of the United States Postal Service and their families and to employees of Select Employer Groups and their families. 

Because South Pasadena is an affluent city, the President easily convinced the Board of Directors that the location represented a virtual untapped mother lode that could serve to reverse Priority One's inability to generate new business.  It evidently never occurred to the Board that if the President had failed to generate new business in all of Riverside County, in all of the Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, that maybe the problem isn't the communities but his deep seeded deficiencies as a President. 

The city of Pasadena is a lovely community populated by many small, privately owned businesses. The three largest businesses are three markets- Vons and Pavilions, both owned by Safeway, Inc. and Bristol Farms. The city's dynamic cannot be viewed as one conducive to the amount of business Priority One is in dire need of. A slave to habit, the President proceeded with his plan and in 2013, the credit union received approval for a charter in South Pasadena. Unfortunately, the President's aspiration to create an impact in South Pasadena's marketplace has yet to be realized. The community, as a whole, has taken little interest in obtaining membership to the credit union.

The decision to apply for a state charter in South Pasadena reminds us that the President's beliefs of what is good for the credit union are often based on what he perceives to be true. A few weeks ago, motivated by the fact the credit union has failed to establish a presence in South Pasadena, the President decided to visit businesses in the city and invite their owners to become members of Priority One. During his trek through the city, he obtained an application for membership from the owner of an antique store. He promised the owner he would make certain an account was opened in her name so that she could access the products and services offered by the credit union. What he failed to consider in his spiel was that all applicants must satisfactorily pass a ChexSystems query.

A subsequent inquiry to ChexSystems produced a list containing other institutions where the applicant had once maintained accounts and which were eventually closed, leaving negative balances. 

The member called the credit union several times before the President agreed to speak to her and explain why her request for membership could not be honored. The applicant later contacted other business owners in the city and urged them not to open accounts or do business with Priority One. The city is small enough that people know one another and certainly the rumor started by the applicant may ultimately have a detrimental impact on the credit union's ability to do business in South Pasadena. 

In the years before being named President, Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. attended numerous seminars and conferences where he learned that to build relations with communities, a credit union must offer some free services including extending an invitation to community business owners to use the credit union's branches to conduct business meetings and special events. Last December 3, 2013, the President invited the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce to use the South Pasadena branch for its Holiday Party. What we find most interesting is that the President waited 7 years to implement his plan which evidently failed to attain the response he was desperately hoping for- producing lots of new business. That said, the gathering was at least a success as a party- saturated with laughter, carousing, and bawdy behavior.    

Priority One Credit Union's Brain Trust

Patricia Loiacano
Vice President of Lending

Mrs. Loiacano is one of the last remaining senior employees of the credit union with more than 20 years of service.

While employed, she has served in various capacities including Supervisor of Lending, Assistant to the Lending Director, Lending Director, AVP of Lending, AVP of Lending and Compliance, AVP of Compliance, Vice President of Lending and Compliance, and currently services as Vice President of Lending.

It is hard to believe that while Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. was Vice President of Operations, he demoted Mrs. Loiacano as Supervisor of Lending, because in his words, “She doesn’t know how to treat people.” At the time, he complained the President that Mrs. Loiacano was abrasive, haughty and condescending. This is one of the few times we’d have to agree with Mr. Wiggington though as the old saying goes, “Look who’s talking.”

In 2008, a former Loan Processor told Mrs. Loiacano who was then the Assistant to the Lending Director, that the then DMV Specialist had obtained permission from then Lending Director, Aaron Cavazos, asking a temporary employee to forge member signatures on more than 150 Power of Attorney forms that had not been signed at the time members funded their vehicle loans. For those who may not know, the Power of Attorney must be signed by a member so that the credit union can transfer ownership of the vehicle to itself until the loan has been satisfied.

At the time, Mrs. Loiacano replied that there was nothing she could do because the directive came from her immediate supervisor, the Director of Lending. At the time, we found it interesting that Mrs. Loiacano could compromise ethics so easily for what was personally politically advantageous.

This past January 2014, Mrs. Loiacano declared that business was “good”. Had she not noticed that the Airport branch closed in December 2013? Her statement was also verbalized just 3 weeks prior to the closing of the Santa Clarita branch, a fact she would have known about.  It is incredible to believe that in view of her standard of honesty, that for approximately 4 years. she oversaw Compliance.

Rodger Smock
Executive Vice President

In 2009, then COO, Beatrice Walker began questioning Mr. Smock’s purpose at the credit union, asserting that he was unnecessary to the operation, describing him as “slow”, “ineffective”, “lazy” and “overpaid.” In August 2010, she stripped him of all authority over Human Resources, transferring the department to herself. Like the President, Mrs. Walker could not refrain from verbalizing her intents, which were to force Mr. Smock to retire. Her plot was made public by her confidants, then Manager of Credit Resolutions, Yvonne Boutte, and Loan Manager, Joseph Garcia.

Mr. Smock’s ineffectiveness as the overseer of Human Resources is easily attested by his numerous failures to uphold the very policy he was appointed to enforce and by his own personal defiance of credit union which during the years 2010 through 2012, resulted in the filing of four lawsuits by former employees.

But Mr. Smock’s deficient behaviors began long before 2009. In 2002, Mr. Smock invited some employees of the credit union, to his home. During the soiree, he served alcohol while one inebriated female swam naked in his pool. In between visiting the women at the pool, he spent his time inside his home entertaining a young gay Latino male employee. Evidently, Mr. Smock was unaware of what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behaviors or what might be deemed a compromise of his then position as Director of Human Resources.

During a deposition conducted in early 2013 at the offices of the credit union’s attorney, Mr. Smock identified himself as the current Director of Human Resources despite the fact that in July 2011, the department’s name was changed to Employee Services and Robert West named its Director. Despite being sworn just prior to his deposition, to answer truthfully, Mr. Smock had no inhibition to lie on record.

Gema Pleitez
Manager (?)

Another long-time employee, Mrs. Pleitez in the capacities of Teller, Financial Service Representative, Assistant Branch Manager, Branch Manager, AVP, and now monitors telephone calls to the Call Center.

In 2010, Mrs. Pleitez was transported by paramedics to Huntington Memorial Hospital following an anxiety attack. At the time, she complained she was afraid then COO, Beatrice Walker, had targeted her for termination.

Over the years, Mrs. Pleitez has violated credit union policies though she remains employed thanks to Executive Vice President, Rodger Smock. For years, she had her staff clock her in, whenever she was going to take more than a 60-minute lunch. And though the credit union allots all employees 2 ten-minute breaks per day, for years Mrs. Pleitez took two 40 to 60 minute breaks each day, Monday-Friday.   Normally, these violations would have resulted in the issuance of written warnings and/or suspension or termination. Thanks to Rodger Smock, Mrs. Pleitez escaped all disciplinary action.

In 2007, she was investigated for removing a 7-day hold for a check deposited by her close friend, the Lead Consumer Loan Officer. The Loan Officer withdrew the money from her account but the check was returned unpaid by the bank it was drawn from. Normally, this would have resulted in termination, but due to Mr. Smock, Mrs. Pleitez retained her employment.

Yvonne Boutte
Vice President Operations

Mrs. Boutte arrived at Priority One in 2008 to serve as the credit union’s first Manager of Priority One’s then new, in-house Credit Resolutions Department.

Mrs. Boutte quickly earned a reputation for being loud, pushy, brash, at times uncouth, and possessing a seemingly uncontrollable propensity for gossip.

In 2010, Mrs. Boutte became the confidant of then COO, Beatrice Walker. It was Mrs. Walker who first promoted Mrs. Boutte. Over the year which followed, the two became inseparable taking lunch together each day and visiting each other on weekends. Mrs. Boutte became a key member of Ms. Walker’s inner-circle and at the time, began publicly criticizing the abilities of President Wiggington. Together with Ms. Walker, Mrs. Boutte helped target “enemy” employees. In 2012, Mrs. Boutte used her strong-armed tactics to try and subjugate a member whose confidential information had been posted on the Internet by an employee of Credit Resolutions. Her ploy failed and provoked a lawsuit which the credit union quickly settled.

Joseph Garcia
Business Development 

Mr. Garcia is not only the most tragic of the credit union’s officers and apparently, one of its most incompetent. 

In January 2010, he was transferred from the no longer existent Redlands branch to South Pasadena, by his then patron, COO, Beatrice Walker where he was to serve as interim supervisor of the newly opened Call Center. Mrs. Walker issued a notice advising employees that Mr. Garcia would serve in that capacity until a permanent supervisor was hired. Three weeks following his arrival, the company announced that Mr. Garcia had been appointed the new and permanent Call Center Supervisor.

Within three months, Ms. Walker added the titles of Credit Manager and Real Estate and Consumer Loan Manager to Mr. Garcia rapidly growing repertoire.  And though Mr. Garcia appeared to be in the fast track headed towards an executive position- at least that’s what he divulged to co-workers.

Within 6 months after being appointed Manager of Real Estate and Consumer Lending, the President determined that Mr. Garcia wasn’t qualified to oversee Real Estate lending. The department was removed from under Mr. Garcia’s authority and transferred to CFO, Saeid Raad.

The favor Mr. Garcia enjoyed under Ms. Walker, proved short-lived. By the end of 2010, he conflicted with Ms. Walker’s other confidant, Yvonne Boutte. Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Boutte’s working and personal relationship with Ms. Walker came to an abrupt end and almost immediately afterwards, Mrs. Boutte began publicly criticizing Ms. Walker’s lack of abilities
as COO and her vindictive treatment of people she “imagined” were her enemies.

Shortly afterwards, Ms. Walker complained that Mr. Garcia had proven incapable of understanding the responsibilities for the many positions he held. By the end of 2010, Mr. Garcia was also stripped of his title of Credit Manager.

In January 2011, Mr. Garcia was bypassed by Beatrice Walker for a promotion to AVP.   Mr. Garcia began disparaging his former patron and supposed friend, describing Ms. Walker as ruthless, unscrupulous, and cruel.

By March 2011, Mr. Garcia confessed that he believed Ms. Walker had marked him for eventual termination and replaced him with newly appointed AVP, Gema Pleitez. Mr. Garcia left the credit union on a medical leave of absence, alleging he was suffering from emotional stress.

In July 2011, Ms. Walker was terminated and on August 1, 2011, the President hired Cindy Garvin to serve as Director of Lending. Mr. Garcia returned to work shortly afterwards, though he was demoted to Assistant to Ms. Garvin.

Over the next few months, Mr. Garcia spent his days campaigning, trying to convince Ms. Garvin and the President that he possessed the abilities to jump start business development and that he would make sure that any employee who failed to do their part to ensure the obtainment of new business, would be promptly terminated.

In November 2011, President Wiggington promoted Mr. Garcia to the position of AVP of Sales and Business Development. Over the next 8 months, Mr. Garcia and Ms. Garvin terminated a large number of employees who had failed to attain their assigned monthly sales quotas. However, by late August 2012, Ms. Garvin informed Mr. Garcia that his strategies were all failing and that unless these improved radically, he too would be terminated. In October 2012, Mr. Garcia fled the credit union on a second leave of absence, again alleging work-related stress.

On December 28, 2012, Ms. Garvin was terminated for failing to fulfill her assigned duties. On January 13, 2013, Mr. Garcia returned to work but was informed his position had been phased out that he would begin serving as the credit union’s only Business Development Representative. He was assigned a monthly sales quota of $150,000 but throughout 2013 and to the present, he has never obtained more than $30,000 in newly funded loans. Despite his failure, the President has refrained from issuing a written warning to Mr. Garcia and as usual, created yet another exception in choosing not to enforce credit union policy for people he holds in favor.   


Dishonesty is a Choice-
Never a Mistake

The benefit of revisiting Priority One's 2012 Annual Report is that it facilitates identifying statements that are inaccurate and more importantly, identifying lies that were paraded as fact by the President and Board Chair. Since January 1, 2007, the day Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. began his notorious reign as President and CEO, he has amassed a well-documented record of dishonest acts which he willingly chose to do. Subsequently, his denials and excuses have continually failed to prove that these were committed in error. 

In our current review of Priority One's 2012 Annual Report we discovered that the President and Board Chair freely embellished the credit union's actual accomplishments in 2012 while conspicuously drawing attention away from the apparently looming failures that caused the credit union's asset value to decline and which resulted in the later closure of two branches in December 2013 and January 2014. What's more, the report was distributed just a few weeks after an audit proved that internal thefts had again occurred at the Los Angeles branch, yet the two chronically deceitful officers perpetrated another sham, declaring the credit union was both secure and safe. What's more they assured readers of Brighter Future Ahead.  

On Wednesday, May 28th, the credit union will conduct its 2014 annual meeting and we expect the President and Board Chair to again misrepresent the facts regarding the credit union's performance in 2013 and exaggerate, as usual, what lies ahead in 2014. Clearly, the two have grown accustomed to manipulating the purpose of the annual report and using it to imply non-existent success. Each year, the two craft an annual address to members which consistently avoids addressing the elephant in the room which is that Priority One has closed 6 branches since October 2010, all in a frantic and desperate effort for the credit union to remain in business.

This year, the President has ordered that on the day of the meeting, all branches will close at 12 noon so that employees can convene at the main branch in South Pasadena where lunch will be provided. Though the event is being touted as a gesture by the credit union thanking its employees, we've learned the President's real motivation is to coax employees to stay and attend the annual meeting whose attendance has steadily declined each year since Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. was appointed President. Over the years, few if any members attend and few employees who find the proceedings dull and a waste of time. Attendance is usually comprised of the credit union's managers and Directors and Supervisors. 

What we find peculiar is the President's decision to close all branches at 12 noon because it means convenience to members will again be disrupted. Monday, May 26th is Memorial Day which means branches will be closed. Branches will again open on Tuesday, May 27th but only open half day on Wednesday, May 28th. Evidently things like service and convenience are unimportant to the credit union's dull President, reminding us that it is his decisions, lack of understanding, and poorly thought out strategies which have contributed most to the credit union's decline.  

Through the years we warned that Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. might prove an embarrassment to the credit union and that his decisions could prove lethal to the then thriving credit union. We were correct. His tenure has been characterized by embarrassing scandals, illegal acts, and abuses, all serving to undermine business, member relations, and employee morale. Our warnings were based on a careful prognosis of t he President's decision-making abilities, the Board's inability to govern the credit union and an assessment of the educational limitations of the Directors and Supervisors. What's more, at Priority One, the Directors rely on the President to interpret the credit union's financial data.  Other factors we considered included the caliber of officers promoted and hired by the President, noting that the qualification he seeks most in an officer is their loyalty to his agendas and those of the Board Chair

In the meantime, Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. continues to surround himself with managers who like himself, are unqualified to carryout their assigned responsibilities but remain employed because the insecure President requires allies who will never contest his mode of mismanagement.  In May 2014, we don't foresee  A Brighter Future Ahead for Priority One. The credit union remains in decline, headed towards an inevitable end which could result in closure or a forced merger with a better managed and hopefully, scandal-free credit union. 

# block visitors referred from indicated domains RewriteEngine on RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} semalt\.com [NC,OR] RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} semalt\.com [NC] RewriteRule .* - [F]