Opinion Piece By Linda Sutter – November 20, 2022
Stolen Funds by their Credit Card Use
You don’t have to look too far to find out how the Harbor District Misuses Public Funds. The former and current Harbor District Pirates aka, Harbormasters didn’t think they would get caught. But they did.
California Public Information Requests are the public’s best friend. Anyone at any given moment can send in a CPRA and the public entity has to provide the documents you request or face consequences.
So was the case when I requested the credit card statements of the Harbor From December 2019 through to October 2022. When the request was fulfilled I discovered what was in the pandora’s box.
Let’s start with former Harbor master Charlie Helms. His use of the Harbor District credit cards was unreal. Before we get started, the public must realize that for every expenditure there is a receipt that must be given to the Office manager who then records in a log book the item purchased, a copy of the receipt, and approval by the board.
From December 14, 2019 to January 15, 2020 the following purchases were made. There are no meeting minutes documenting training, travel, or needed expenses, there are no receipts, and there are no ledgers convenient wouldn’t you say?
Charlie Helms began his spending spree in December 2019. On December 17 he made a food purchase in Rancho Cordova for Noodles $20.05. On December 18th, he stayed at the Homewood Suites in Rancho Cordova for $215.84. He rented a car in Oakland California for $204.58 and made gasoline purchases totaling $33.44.
On January 6th, Charlie purchased airline tickets to Portland and San Diego for a total price of $316.41 and rented a car for $221.15. No record on why he was there. On January 17th, 2020 he purchased food from Ocean Seafoods in Newport Oregon. On the 18th he drove to Clackamas and filled up at Chevron for $36.91 ate at the B&B Diner in Grants Pass, purchased fuel or food at Seven Feathers Truck in Canyonville for $20.32, Stayed at the Hampton Inn in Clackamas for $97.02 and rented a car from Crescent City Hertz Rent-a-car for $180.63. On January 22, 2020 Charlie ate at the Texas Roadhouse in Medford Oregon for $34.97. And purchased an airline ticket to Portland for $30.00 (he was using the Harbor Districts rewards from the Credit Card.) Charlie also stayed another night at the Hampton Inn for $102.10. On January 23, 2020 Charlie Helms ended up in San Diego. Charlie paid $10.00 for parking, $10.92 at Shell Oil in San Diego, and $41.00 at the Sheraton in San Diego. On January 25 2020, Charlie Helms paid $225.47 at the Sheraton Inn in San Diego, he rented a car for $306.54 paid $9.06 at Portland airport, paid $168.03 at Homewood Suites in San Diego and $40.00 at Jackson County Airport in Medford, Oregon. Other charges came through from San Diego for $141.01 and $30.00. He also ate Lobster in San Diego for $26.01. And purchased another airline ticket from San Diego to Portland for $30.00 dollars.
On February 4th 2020, Charlie purchased two more airline tickets from Contour Airlines. One was for $138.00 and the other was for $298.00. On the 12th of February 2020, Charlie treated himself to dinner at the local Seaquake Restaurant for $58.21. On 19th of February 2020, Charlie made his way back down to Hayward California where he had dinner at El Pollo Loco for $23.03. On the 21st, Charlie rented a car from Hertz in Oakland for $275. 70 he purchased a room at the Doubletree Suites for $108.00 and filled up at Shell Oil in Oakland $47.68. Ate at McDonalds for a mere $8.73. But then he discovered the Monkey Thai Restaurant in Alemeda and had dinner for $15.62. Between the 19th and 21st Charlie went to Rudy’s Hideaway (seafood restaurant) in Rancho Cordova and spent $34.98, he spent the night at the Hamptons Inn for $154.27. Charlie really liked the Monkey Thai Restaurant because he went back a second time spending $19.41.
Keep in mind there are no receipts, nothing in the ledgers as required and mandated by state law and the General Accepted Accounting Principles for the State. No meeting minutes to support all this travel, however, since the Harbor District does not record their meetings, they will more than likely produce meeting minutes after the reading of this article.
In March 2020, Charlie Helms continued his spending spree of taxpayers funds. It should be noted none of the sitting Commissioners questioned the credit card statements and I doubt very seriously they looked at them because if they had looked at them and allowed this severe misuse of funds, they would be held accountable as well. If they did not look at them, they are negligent with dereliction of their duties to uphold the very oath they were sworn to.
On March 3, 2020 Charlie Helms purchased a room in Medford Oregon at the Hilton for $106.37. On March 5th, Wood Ranch Mission $27.24 and March 6th, San Diego Doubletree charge for $139.31, and $30.00. Fashion Valley Gas $13.99, Window Cafe, $12.78. And on March 7, 2020 the following charges Homewood Suites in San Diego $155.21 and another charge for $21.00. Medford Airport $50.00, and Deschutes Brewery in Portland 421.69. Airline ticket from San Diego to Portland for 430.00 and rent a car in San Diego for $81.44.
There are no receipts for these purchases, no ledger was kept, and there are no meeting minutes to correspond for the necessity to use the Harbor District Credit card.
By April 2020 Covid 19 had set in and the entire country was shut down. But good ole Charlie found other ways to use the Harbor District Credit Card. He began to buy coffee mugs and other items to sell in the Harbor Gift Shop. According to penal code 424 you cannot loan public funds or make profit from them. The gift shop should be a separate entity as there is no budget set aside for this gift shop and where do the proceeds go?
In June 2020 several purchases of gasoline were made by Charlie Helms and Michael Baker. Since the Harbor District feels it is laughable to not maintain an inventory control sheet I’m sure they did not keep track of the mileage of the vehicles, when they were filled with fuel, when they were serviced and the cost of the fuel, since they did not purchase their fuel through Renner who is contracted with them to purchase fuel they utilized Chevron station on June 17, 2020 for $54.00. On the 18th of June they purchased $100.00 from Chevron Station, and another $91.25 the same day. On June 20, they purchased $57.00 at Chevron and on the 22nd, $33.40. On the 24th, they purchased $45.00 and on the 27th, another $50.00 of fuel from Chevron.
In September Charlie Helms purchased $88.65 worth of merchandise from Wright’s Custom Framing in Brookings Oregon, on the 30th he had lunch at the Chart Room for $40.85. And purchased a room at the Lighthouse Inn on October 1, 2020 for $86.90.
In October Charlie purchased something from Wayfair for $451.49 and in November 2020, Charlie purchased something from Wright’s Custom Framing for $88.66, Charlie bought $17.95 worth of coffee or other drinks from Starbucks. More mugs for $166.63 and miscellaneous purchases from Walmart.
In March 2021 Charlie found himself making purchases in Eureka at Michaels for $63.99 and there were Amazon purchases made, but for what is not known. In May 2021, Charlie purchased something from Apple for $502.02 and $69.00. Since there are no receipts or details on the credit card there is no way to know what the money was spent on. One thing for sure Charlie liked to spread the wealth and made sure the tax dollars were spent at Walmart and Dollar Tree. Charlie made $117,000.00 as the last recorded wages at California Transparency. Plus all his free purchases from the Harbor District Credit Card.
But Charlie isn’t the only one who had free reign with the Harbor District Credit Card. In comes Tim Petrick. Mr. Petrick is the current Harbor mMaster. He too likes to utilize the Harbor District Credit card for his own personal use, and learned quickly from Charlie just how easy and fun it is to do.
On July 15th, 2021 Mr. Petrick purchased airline tickets for Stephen Denny for $109.00. He Flew Mr. Denny from Las Vegas to Medford and prepaid Budget.com $1,686.17 .
On August 5th Petrick purchased airline tickets for himself and his wife. $194.00 per person with additional charges totaling $232.00. On August 6th Mr. Petrick charged $2,397.60 for hotels here in Crescent City. And, another 1$,851.48 to the Best Western Hotel in Crescent City on August 14, 2021. Keep in mind that Mr. Petrick is only allotted $3,500 dollars per year for travel and training. But who’s counting? Not the Commissioners.
On October 15, 2021 he again purchased airline tickets for him and his wife for a total of $70.00 because the Harbor District credit card has rewards, and an additional $1,711.23 dollars for Hilton Hotels in La Jolla Ca. On October 16, 2021 $96.00 was charged from Medford Airport.
On March 22, 2022 Tim Petrick prepaid Budget.com $707.58. On March 30, 2022, Tim Petrick paid $1,336.14 to Grand Hyatt in San Francisco and on March 31, he paid 117.01 to Chevron in Crescent City. He bought himself lunch at the Fisherman’s Restaurant for $45.13.
On April 10, 2022, Tim Petrick purchased fuel at Northcrest Patriot Station for $100.00. And On April 13, 2022 he made a $252.60 purchase at Walmart. No Receipts or ledgers to determine what these purchases were for. On April 15, 2022 Mr. Petrick was hungry again and spent $40.54 at the Fisherman’s Restaurant on Citizens Dock Road. On the 19th, he made a Walmart purchase for $31.98. And then on the 22nd Mr. Petrick was hungry AGAIN and spent $44.55 at the Kin Khao Thai restaurant.
On September 22, 2022, Mr. Petrick went to Central Point Oregon and made a purchase at the Pilot $23.98. I imagine he was hungry because they have food there. On September 23, 2022 got fuel at the Chevron Station for $119.50. I guess when gas is $1.80 less in Oregon per gallon, if you’re using the Harbor district credit Card, it doesn’t pay to go fill up in Brookings when the taxpayer foots the bill?
On October 10, 2022, a purchase for fuel resulted in a charge of 1$28.50. There were AirBnB charges but half of those charges were for the keystone cops to get their 5 day training to carry guns and arrest people.
Just when you think this story is over I hate to tell you…there is more. The last audit that was conducted on the Harbor District Was done June 30, 2020. In the meantime, the Harbor district was able to get a $7,336,566.00 grant with the help of Congressman Jared Huffman. The question is, how on earth did they manage to get this grant when they did not have a current audit? I’m not condemning, I’m just saying, this is an eye opening issue.
During the last Harbor District Meeting held earlier this month the Comptroller who is working for the Harbor made a presentation of their ongoing budget. He did not display the entire amount the harbor District had received. He only displayed $7,000,000.00 dollars. What was the intent of that? Secondly, when I requested to review their policies and procedures on Credit Card use. Guess what? Yep, they have none. No surprise here. And, when I brought it to the attention of the Comptroller regarding the expenditures on the credit cards, he stated with a chuckle, and I quote, “we are trying to move forward.” In other words The Comptroller, whose name is Thomas Zergif, was willing to turn a blind eye to these charges. When I told him about the charges Petrick had made with purchasing airline tickets for his wife and eating lunch. Mr. Thomas stated, “Oh he probably paid that back.” Uh Mr. Comptroller, it doesn’t work like that. When I said something to Commissioner Wes White, he stated, “Oh he was probably taking a client out to eat.” Uh no. You cannot do that with taxpayer funds. No receipts, no ledgers, no itineraries, no board approval.
Rest assured this has been reported to Sheriff Scott and Chief Griffin, letters were sent to Congressman Huffman, Mike McGuire, Gavin Newsom and California State Controller’s office. Pictures of the Audit will accompany this report. And the last Audit the Harbor district Management lied with their response because their current office manager did not get hired until July 2022 and receipts were only kept from August to October so far this year. In fact, the Auditor could not get credit card statements or bank reconciliations.