By Leslie Parrilla, San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 08/05/14, 7:28 PM PDT | Updated: 56 secs ago

COLTON >> The city’s top manager says he was investigating the Public Works Department for potential policy violations to prevent fraud and theft when the city started investigating him, something he planned to explain this week after the inquiry results into him were made public.

City Manager Stephen Compton said he was trying to understand why about $3 million was not billed in water fees, why the city used $2.2 million from its reserves to backfill capital improvement projects, why the council wasn’t being told where the money was coming from and whether utilities income was being overstated.

“I was just getting to the point of gathering the facts,” Compton said.

But in the middle of that investigation, Compton was placed on paid administrative leave June 5 and an inquiry was launched into his actions, the results of which were made public Monday at a special meeting.

Workplace investigator and Ontario attorney Kathy M. Gandara told the City Council on Monday that she finished a personnel inquiry into Compton. Her findings from the two-month long investigation presented publicly showed that Compton had approved $23,000 more than his $25,000 limit in contracts, and hired temporary employees without following proper procedures.

He denies any wrongdoing.

Councilman David Toro was surprised Compton had hired temporary workers without following procedures and wanted to know why. He was not surprised by the overspending because Compton had previously told the council about that, Toro said.

Councilman Frank A. Gonzales called the findings serious.

“There’s no excuse for this. It’s serious,” Gonzales said. “The results of the investigation speak for themselves.”

But Compton said in a phone interview Monday night, his first public interview since he was placed on paid administrative leave, that he had started gathering facts in April 2013, a month after he was hired as interim city manager, to understand why Colton didn’t have as much money as it should, and as a routine matter because of his lengthy finance background.

“I’m wondering, why is the city out of money?” Compton said about when he was first hired. “I said we’re not doing what we should be doing … This community has trouble and I’m trying to help it.”

While digging into 2012 audits and documents to understand capital improvement projects, he learned that rates for fire flow charges, or water services that commercial businesses use during fires, had been increased in 2009 by the council from old 1999 rates. But after complaints about the high rates, they were somehow dropped back to 1999 rates and have stayed there since, resulting in about $3 million that could have been collected but was not.

Acting City Manager and Public Works Director Amer Jakher explained that he wasn’t here in 2009 when the rates were changed and that his department is working on correcting the matter.

“They were thought to be excessive,” Jakher said about the increased rates. “The rates were raised and then they were dropped. The people who did that are no longer at the city.”

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