A man first accused three years ago of bilking the city out of millions of dollars was expected to return to court this week.
Danny Ray Wooten is accused of embezzling $6.4 million over 11 years from the city’s Underground Utilities Program while he worked as a management analyst in the Public Works Department.
“It’s infuriating,” said Mayor Terry Tornek of delays in Wooten’s legal proceedings. “I keep putting it on my calendar and it’s not happening.”
Wooten, Tyrone Collins and Melody Jenkins face a total of 60 charges, including embezzlement, conflict of interest and grand theft. If convicted, Wooten faces 28 years in prison. Collins and Jenkins each face 18 years behind bars.
Wooten allegedly gave $2 million to Collins, owner of Collins Electric in Altadena. Jenkins, a former temporary employee with the city, allegedly received $2 million. Wooten also donated additional $2 million to a church in Pomona where he served as senior pastor, according to prosecutors.
According to an audit of that program, Wooten would submit invoices for small amounts to administrators with the Public Works Department for approval, but city employees did not maintain the proper chain of custody after signing the invoices. Instead of taking custody of the invoices, they allowed Wooten to keep them. With the required signatures already in place, Wooten would then allegedly add new pages to the invoices, claim different work had been performed, and place extra digits in front of the first number, increasing the dollar amounts on invoices.
The three, who are currently free on bail, were arrested on Dec. 30, 2014. The scandal shocked local residents and officials who were preparing for Tournament of Roses festivities.
City Manager Michael Beck fired Finance Director Andrew Green and Public Works Director Siobahn Foster in the wake of the scandal. However, many local residents blamed Beck and called for his removal. Beck left the city for a job at UCLA in 2016.
Four unnamed city workers were also placed on suspension in relation to the embezzlement scandal.
About $5.8 million has been recovered through an insurance settlement.
“Our controls are much more rigid now,” said City Manager Steve Mermell. “It would be a whole lot harder to defraud the city now.”