San Bernardino bankruptcy: Exacerbated by criminal acts?

An investigation into possible criminal activity related to San Bernardino, California's woeful financial state is ongoing. Allegations suggest that some of the city's financial documents were falsified. 

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    San Bernadino, Calif., city employee Rafael Tinoco empties trash barrels in a neighborhood in the Southern California city. San Bernardino is facing a budget shortfall of $45 million and annual deficits over the next five years.
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Law enforcement officials said Thursday that they have an open criminal investigation regarding allegations of misconduct in the city government of San Bernardino, which announced this week it was going to file for bankruptcy.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department released a statement confirming the probe but released few other details.

“Several months ago at the request of San Bernardino city officials, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, along with the San Bernardino Police Department and the district attorney’s office began an investigation related to allegations of possible criminal activity within departments of the San Bernardino city government,” the statement said. “The investigation is continuing, and details will not be released at this time. Updates will be provided as new information becomes available.”

There have been allegations that some financial documents were falsified to hide the seriousness of San Bernardino’s financial woes.

Meanwhile, San Bernardino’s police and fire chiefs Thursday assured residents that the agencies will continue to aggressively respond to crime, fires and medical emergencies despite the city’s decision to seek bankruptcyprotection.

Police Chief Rob Handy, who took over the job in October, said he plans to shift officers from specialized assignments, including gang units, to patrol duty to ensure quick response to reports of crime.

“We will continue to provide emergency and essential services to the residents of this community. We will do what it takes,” Handy told reporters at a morning news conference at police headquarters.

Still, Handy expects more officers to leave or retire as the cloud of bankruptcy hangs over the city, an attrition that he said could eventually affect crime prevention and community policing programs.

The city already has seen an increase in violent crime this year.

Handy and acting Fire Chief Paul Drasil said officers and firefighters are concerned that they may feel the brunt of the city’s fiscal crisis, given that public safety agencies account for 75 percent of the city’s budget. But they declined to address austerity proposals, including suggestions the city could either share fire services with other areas or contract other public safety agencies, such as the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the state firefighting agency.

Drasil said San Bernardino poses unique challenges for firefighters, with its aging urban neighborhoods and proximity to the San Bernardino Mountains.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted to seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, a section of federal law for municipalities facing insolvency. Interim City Manager Andrea Miller told the council that the city faced a $45.8-million budget shortfall, the equivalent of about 35% of the city’s annual budget, and would not be able make payroll this summer.

San Bernardino is the third California city to seek bankruptcy protection in the last month, joining Stockton, in the Central Valley, and Mammoth Lakes in the eastern Sierra Nevada.


©2012 Los Angeles Times

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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