Officials of the Oceano Community Services District are struggling to uncover how almost $368,000 in district funds were kept secret from the district’s board of directors and even the general manager.
General Manager Raffaele Montemurro recently discovered five certificate of deposit accounts, the earliest of which was opened in 1991. The most recent account was opened five years ago and currently holds $294,293.
There is only one name on all the accounts, which Montemurro said is an extremely unusual arrangement. The general manager and several members of the board of directors should have also had their signatures included under normal government procedures. However, it seems many of the officials were completely unaware the accounts existed.
Montemurro said he’s contacted the Sheriff’s Department and SLO County Office of the District Attorney, and plans to contact the California Attorney General. Though there’s one name on all the accounts (a former district employee) and foul play is suspected, there was no formal criminal investigation as of press time and no charges had been made.
Three accounts were opened between April 2001 and March 2002, totaling about $70,000. Any interest accrued on those accounts should have been reported in the district’s 2001-02 budget, but there was no mention of any CD accounts at the time. In effect, the accounts were opened and kept secret.
District directors recently approved a forensic audit after learning district check numbers didn’t match those recorded with the bank. Officials suspect one or more people may have been stealing money by writing checks using district funds and covering their tracks.