Michael J. Sorba, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/14/2010 04:52:38 PM PST

VICTORVILLE – Federal and local investigators continue to request stacks of documents from the city as part of ongoing probes into bond sales and financial records.

Requests for information have become so intensive that three full-time workers are dedicated to processing them, said Councilman Ryan McEachron.

“It’s more or less an ongoing investigation and no outcomes at this point have been shared with city staff,” McEachron said. “I’m not sure how much longer this will go or how long it will take them to come out with any kind of a report.”

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission launched its investigation in August, directing city employees to stop deleting e-mails or throw away paper records, including document drafts and Post-it notes, said city spokeswoman Yvonne Hester.

The SEC has declined to comment on the matter. McEachron says the agency is focused on bond sales that took place between 2005 and 2008.

The city has about $464 million in outstanding bond debt, with all but $83 million of it falling under the Redevelopment Agency, said Hester.

The $83 million city bond funded the failed Foxborough power plant. The agency’s debt was issued to pay for infrastructure improvements to roads, sewers and hangars at Southern California Logistic Airport, Hester said.

In April 2009, the San Bernardino County Grand Jury began investigating handshake agreements allegedly made between former City Manager Jon B. Roberts and developers without council approval, McEachron said. Roberts is now city manager in Steamboat Springs, Co.

When last year’s Grand Jury disbanded in June, a special Grand Jury panel was formed to pick up where the previous one left off.

For legal reasons, McEachron said he couldn’t comment on specific deals, but generally speaking, Roberts allowed certain developers to forgo paying the cost of infrastructure improvements they’re usually required to pay for, such as traffic signals or street improvements.

Instead the city footed the bill, he said.

“I think that, without a doubt, there is a focus of the Grand Jury into some of the things that were done while (Roberts) was in charge,” McEachron said. “Whether or not it’s him specifically or someone else, it’s yet to be seen. We don’t know if they’re focusing on any one person or people.”

When contacted by phone Friday, Roberts only said, “I’m not familiar with what (McEachron’s) referring to.”

McEachron said he found it odd Roberts shifted payroll responsibilities from its typical place in the Finance Department to the Information Technology Department. The councilman also said he disagreed with a decision made by the council prior to his 2008 election that increased the amount of money Roberts could spend – $25,000 to $125,000 – without council approval.

In response to increasing allegations of corruption from residents, McEachron in December asked the council to commission a forensic audit of the city’s finances to root out possible malfeasance.

The council voted 4-1, with Councilman Mike Rothschild dissenting, to go forward with it. The council lobbied the county’s Board of Supervisors to pay $195,000 to hire an outside auditor. The audit has been under way for over six months with the Grand Jury providing oversight, schild said.

Although it’s possible some bad management decisions were made under Roberts, said Rothschild, he doesn’t believe any illegal activity occurred.

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