Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

By Investigative Reporter – May 10, 2023

In November 2022, a complaint against the Crescent City Harbor District was submitted to the Del Norte County Sheriff Scott and to Chief of Police Richard Griffin for Willful Misuse of Public Money by former Harbormaster Charlie Helms and current Harbormaster Tim Petrick.

The law enforcement agencies decided to submit the complaint to the Del Norte County Auditor, Clinton Schaad, because it was out of their expertise to decipher what was considered as inappropriate charges of the credit cards used by both Helms and Petrick.

During the investigation by the County Auditor, it was pretty clear that the Auditor’s office was very concerned about the charges Charlie Helms made as well as those by Tim Petrick. However, when push came to shove, The Auditor, Clinton Schaad, pulled a good ole boys move with the Del Norte County District Attorney, Katherine “Katie” Micks.

Clinton Schaad, Del Norte County Auditor/Controller

In a letter from Clinton Schaad he stated the following;

“To whom it concerns,

Linda Sutter has requested that I document my involvement and findings as it pertains to the Crescent City Harbor District and the use of their CalCard.

Several months ago I was notified by the Del Norte County Sheriff’s department that Linda Sutter had presented information that she believed showed potential illegal activity at the Crescent City Harbor District. The Del Norte Sheriff’s Department felt they did not have the expertise or available time to investigate a potential financial crime and thought it best that they send the information directly to me so that I review the documentation that they were provided. I reviewed the documentation the Sheriff Department provided to me along with additional documentation provided to me by Linda Sutter. At the conclusion of my review, I met with District Attorney Micks to discuss what I had found and to discuss if she felt there was any illegal activity. My opinion after reviewing the Documentation and meeting with DA Micks is that I did not see any blatant illegal activity but there were some weak internal controls that could be corrected with stronger internal policies. DA Micks agreed with my findings and given the information we were provided believe there was no illegal financial activity happening at the Crescent City Harbor District as it pertains to their CAl Card usage. This opinion is solely based on the information I was provided by Linda Sutter and the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office.”

On May 8, 2023 I went into the County Auditor’s office. While I was there Clinton Schaad and his Co-worker informed me that Charlie Helms was now the executive Director of the California Association of Harbormasters and Port Captains. Their demeanor and tone of voice when they informed me was of their disbelief. However, Clinton Schaad played a different tone and point of view to the District Attorney.

In fact in a letter from Chief Griffin there was another understanding.

Chief Griffin writes,

To Linda Sutter

Re Confirmation of Misuse of Public Funds Case

Linda,

I recently received a request from you to confirm that you had reported a possible misuse of public funds by the Crescent City Harbor District. I am confirming that you wrote me several emails, starting on November 1, 2022, if I remember correctly, and you also provided audit reports, credit card statements and other documents to support the case.

I reviewed the documents and found a couple of violations that may have occurred inside city jurisdiction, most of the alleged violations appeared to have taken place in the county jurisdiction. I then spoke with Del Norte County Sheriff, Garrett Scott about this investigation to see how it could best be handled. Sheriff Scott and I agreed that the best way to handle the investigation is to give it to the elected Auditor Clinton Schaad and have him investigate it. I spoke with Auditor Schaad and confirmed he was given the same information and that he had started an investigation into the matter. My understanding was that the findings of the investigation would be presented in a report to the Del Norte County District Attorney’s Office for review of any possible criminal charges. This concluded what he wrote.

COUNTY AUDITOR SCHADD DOES NOT GENERATE A REPORT

No report was ever generated by Clinton Schadd. Clinton Schadd is not a forensic Auditor. However, he knows how to identify correct policy and procedures of bookkeeping. Auditor Schadd failed to faithfully report obvious excessive Cal Card usage, and provided a great injustice to this community by going along to get along with our District Attorney, Katie Micks, who recently stated in open forum at the April 25th 2023 Board of Supervisors meeting, “I only take cases I know I will win.”

Katherine “Katie” Micks, Del Norte County District Attorney

Del Norte District Attorney Micks also wrote a letter which said the following;

“Linda Sutter,

I met with Auditor Schadd in March 2023 and went over the Cal Card usage for the Harbor District. We discussed the lack of internal controls and agreed that there is insufficient evidence of criminal offenses contained within the information presented.”

It is worthy to mention that from January 2018 through to July 2021 Charlie Helms spent a total of $172,764.23 and more than likely more because some of the credit card statements were not made available. Out of $172,764.23 Charlie Helms spent $63,833.32 on his personal travels that were not approved by the Harbor Board. No claim forms had been kept whatsoever by the Harbor District to show travel expenses, itineraries, mileage, hotel expenses, or food expenses. Charlie’s expenditures included, 3 to 5 trips monthly, a trip to Ireland, clothing, skin products, make-up, high end restaurants, alcohol, shoes, rental cars, hotels, and other items.

Yet Clinton Schaad wants to call it “internal weaknesses,” wink wink. “

It is also worthy to mention that on April 18, 2018 the balance of the credit card was $5,858 but the CCHD paid $8,830 receiving back $2,972 . In November 2018 there was an overpayment of $838. In January 2020 an overpayment of $944 was returned.

From August 2021 through to December 2022, a 16 month period, Tim Petrick spent $10,155.24 for personal use and included trips for his wife, hotels, restaurants, and rental cars as well as gas for his personal vehicle and continues to utilize his Cal Card on local restaurants.

Elements for Misappropriation of Public Funds

If you appropriated public money for your own use or use of another person, without authority, and you knew the law prohibited the appropriation of public money, or you were criminally negligent in finding out whether they had the legal authority to make the appropriation.

The evidence that was presented to Auditor Schadd and DA Micks was the following;

Credit Card Statements

Auditor Reports reflecting the Harbor District refusing to provide Bank Reconciliations, Credit Card Statements, Ledgers, lack of supporting documentation, no supporting documents for payroll expenses, District does not reconcile the accounts receivable nor fund balance. Lack of procedures to ensure accuracy of balance sheet on a monthly basis.

There was a one page policy for credit card that stated the following

GOAL: To ensure the Harbor Master and key Executive team members can make qualifying reimbursable purchases and incur travel expenses on behalf of the Crescent City Harbor District without needing to use personal funds and them submit requests and/or to do so without needing to use advances or petty cash.

OBJECTIVES: This goal will be achieved by the CCHD issuing applicable credit card charge accounts to key staff under the following conditions and guidelines and by completing the listed activities.

  1. Receipts and documentation for all purchase will be required.
  2. Line-item statement charges will be recorded, and timely reported.
  3. Credit Limits will be approved by Harbor Master.
  4. Team member is personally responsible for all purchases made using CCHD credit accounts and expressly provides CCHD with permission to deduct the full amount of purchases from the employee’s wages if the expense is not paid by the employee.
  5. Any purchase made that would not qualify for reimbursement that is not disclosed and/or if payment for such purchases is not received by CCHD by the statement due date, CCHD shall consider such purchases an abuse of position and grounds for termination.
  6. Determination of qualifying reimbursement is guided by CCHD Board policies and applicable policies developed by the State of California for their executive staff and elected officials.

MEASUREMENT/EVALUATION

To determine if this policy is effective, the Comptroller will ensure credit card charges are timely reviewed and processed as detailed expenditures and purchases. Receipt and statement will be reconciled monthly. Comptroller is mandated to report any misuse of credit accounts to the Harbor Master and Board President in writing, within 14 days of becoming aware. Effectiveness of policy will be further evaluated based on finding of FY2022-2023 Audit.

This policy was created November 12, 2022 after an investigation had been ongoing and the request for past credit card policies were nonexistent. The policy does not reflect what is required by the California Special District Manual of Government Standards of accounting principles. The Harbor District refused to provide Bank Reconciliations that disclosed what the check was written for. The Bank statements provided were check numbers and amount but no description on what the check was for.

Additionally, if you review the Crescent City Harbor District’s (CCHD) policy it leaves the district open for excessive expenditures. #5 allows anyone with a CCHD credit card (taxpayer funded credit card) to make any purchase as long as they pay it back. Since when do government entities allow employees to use government credit cards to purchase whatever as long as they pay it back? In fact the very person reviewing the credit card statements is the very person who uses the credit card. This does not follow the Government Standard Accounting Principles.

There has been no oversight, the Board members of the Harbor District have no sense of right or wrong using taxpayer funded credit cards, and are just as guilty as those using these State funded credit cards without policy and procedure, or oversight.

The Comptroller that was “hired,” Thomas Zickgraf, stated he wanted to move forward and turn a blind eye to this misappropriation of funds. However in the one page policy that he developed, he states, “. Comptroller is mandated to report any misuse of credit accounts to the Harbor Master and Board President in writing, within 14 days of becoming aware.” How interesting that is? Do you think Tim Petrick is going to tell on himself?

CALIFORNIA CASES:

There have been several California Cases where public officials have been prosecuted for misusing public funds, including credit card abuse.

In 2016, Former San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi plead guilty to a misdemeanor after he admitted to using city-issued credit card to purchase personal items, including clothing and gasoline. He was sentenced to 3 years of probation and was required to pay back $600 to the city. 

In 2015, the former director of California Department of Parks and Recreation, Ruth Coleman, resigned after it was discovered that she and other officials had misused state funds including credit cards, for personal expenses. Coleman was not charged with a crime, but she agreed to pay back $150,000 to the state.

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