Reasons for Misappropriation:
Weak BOS, Controlling CAO
A former county employee in the social services department points to a weak Board of Supervisors and a controlling chief administrative officer as reasons behind the misappropriation of an estimated $20 million from the treasury.
“I don’t know why he had so much power,” pondered the employee in referring to retired CAO Mike Maxwell and speaking on the condition of anonymity because she was sworn to secrecy resulting from an out-of-court settlement with the county for wrongful termination.
“The Board of Supervisors had to give it to him,” she said, “but how did he get it from them? He couldn’t have manipulated me to crossing the street so he wasn’t such a good con man. But something was happening and I watched it. I watched him gain power over ever department.
“What would cause the department heads to abdicate? I never understood why he should be in charge of every department in the county, but the Board of Supervisors as a rule is not very educated.”
The former employee said the misappropriation of the treasury had been going on for some time before it was disclosed by former CAO Mark Charlton in early 2009.
“It goes way back, but it does not precede Maxwell,” she said, explaining that she worked for the county for 20 years before being fired over a child abuse case. “There was a lot of loose money that they used to redecorate offices and did what they apparently wanted. Everybody on some level was aware of it.
“They did not keep very good track of their money,” she said. “Maybe they still don’t. I saw the treasury reports, but it was such an antiquated system. They used long strips of green paper, it was real antique, and they cut them up in pieces. I can’t tell you what a fiasco it was. It was absolutely difficult to follow what was going on. No one could audit the departments without information.
“It was just kind of coffee shop talk, but everyone knew,” she said referring to the misappropriation of funds. “There was general knowledge floating around that something wasn’t right. The structure that had been in place kind of collapsed and Maxwell was in charge of everything. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.
“I don’t know how Maxwell got in charge,” she said. I have no idea how he gained the power he had. He was kind of nothing with no background and suddenly he was in charge of everything.
“The Board of Supervisors is a lot of work and anybody with any intellect wouldn’t want the job,” she said. ”Just looking at the pile of papers you would have to read and you don’t have any legal aid to sort out that garbage. Maxwell could have gotten power from that. They were not capable of doing it or didn’t want to do it.
“Maxwell had one hundred percent power over the Board of Supervisors and the Modoc Medical Center. He just got in charge of everything in the county.”
-- Ray A. March