Former city employee Danny Ray Wooten, who is accused of bilking the city of Pasadena out of $6 million, returns to court for a pretrial hearing on Friday, more than three years after he was arrested.
Along with Wooten, also set to appear are Tyrone Collins and Melody Jenkins, who are also charged in a 60-count complaint alleging embezzlement and grand theft.
Prosecutors claim that Wooten, a former Public Works Department employee, took advantage of the city’s poor oversight and changed amounts on invoices to slowly siphon off money from the city’s underground utilities fund for 11 years.
Wooten donated $2 million to a church in Pomona where he served as a senior pastor, according to prosecutors, and opened a recording studio.
The program placed power wires underground throughout the city. According to prosecutors, Wooten directed money to Collins, who ran an electrical company in Altadena, and Jenkins.
If convicted, Wooten faces a maximum of 28 years in prison. Collins and Jenkins each face 18 years.
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.
Former 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.
The city recovered about $5.2 million in insurance payouts.
Since that time, the city has taken steps to increase oversight and control over city finances, according to City Manager Steve Mermell.
In November, Mayor Terry Tornek expressed frustration with the amount of time it has taken to begin the trial.
“It’s infuriating,” Tornek said of the delays in Wooten’s legal proceedings. “I keep putting it on my calendar and it’s not happening.”