Gerard Goedhart, the former manager of the Orange County Vector Control District, might have squandered about $500,000 in taxpayer dollars by making unauthorized advance rent payments on a property that is now in default.
This possibility has some members of the district’s board, which is made primarily of city council members from throughout county, in an uproar. At the district’s regular meeting Thursday, board members expressed confusion, unsure if they should blame Goedhart or Alan Burns, the district’s legal counsel, for the folly.
Goedhart, who did not get his contract renewed earlier this year, made advance rent payments through 2018 on the property adjacent to the district’s headquarters in Garden Grove with the hope that the district would eventually acquire the property. But he didn’t get permission. And now the property is in default and the district faces the possibility of never getting the money back.
Vector Control is responsible for controlling pests like rats and mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.
Although the reasons for Goedhart leaving were deemed confidential, current District Manager Michael Hearst said he “wasn’t a favorite of staff.” The Orange County Register also reported earlier this year that some board members had problems with his decisions to give out raises and his penchant for confidential communications that should have been public record.
Hearst said it appeared that Goedhart failed to take into account the risk of putting down cash on the property.
“I can’t say what he was thinking when he did that,” Hearst said.
Board members received several memos indicating that Goedhart had been advancing payments on the lease, but the board members didn’t put a stop to the ongoing payments.
When asked why the board didn’t take action when members received the memos, Board President Joe Anderson said the memos were received over a “period of years.”
Board members Steven Weinberg of Dana Point and John Paul Ledesma of Mission Viejo were incensed that the district counsel, Alan Burns, allowed Goedhart to cut the checks without board approval.
“It’s time for this board to call time out and hire an independent law firm investigator,” Weinberg said. “If it goes into foreclosure, we’re out half a million bucks.”
District staffers, at a special meeting scheduled for Dec. 1, are set to propose that the district buy the property. The board will also discuss the possibility of a forensic audit at that meeting.
We’ll provide more details as they emerge.
— ADAM ELMAHREK