Huntington Beach City Manager Fred Wilson was the chief bureaucrat in San Bernardino — which unexpectedly announced Tuesday that it is filing for bankruptcy — during a period when San Bernardino officials were falsifying budget documents, according to San Bernardino City Attorney James Penman.

For 13 of the last 16 years, San Bernardino budget officials hid the city’s deficit spending by falsifying documents presented to the City Council, Penman said at Tuesday’s San Bernardino City Council meeting. He did not name the officials responsible.

When asked by a journalist whether he was accusing the previous three city managers in his allegations, Pennman replied, “I don’t know.” Councilman John Valdivia then said “employees” had doctored the figures.

According to a San Bernardino news release, Huntington Beach hired Wilson in 2008 after his 12-year stint as San Bernardino’s top administrator. Previously Wilson had served as assistant to the city administrator for three years, then as assistant city administrator for six years.

San Bernardino is filing for bankruptcy as it faces a $46-million deficit, according to news reports. The city has a severe cash flow crisis,  with only $150,000 in city bank accounts, which was barely enough to meet the June 15 payroll.

Wilson could not be immediately reached for comment, but he sent this email to the Google group HBTalk, which had been discussing Penman’s assertions:

“Please don’t make assumptions about this statement. It apparently occurred in the heat of a difficult discussion on this subject. The budgets that were adopted during my tenure were balanced and audited each year. All these documents are on file with the City Clerk.”


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