BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The Kern County District Attorney's Office announced it found "no criminal" violation by Kern County Fair Board members after allegations of potential misconduct from a state audit last year.
However, a former fair maintenance supervisor was charged on three felony counts of grand theft for allegedly recycling the facility’s scrap material and pocketing the money.
Covering Kern County
Kern DA's office: 'No criminal violation' by fair board
Last year 23ABC reported that an audit showed Kern County board members spent thousands of dollars on expensive dinners. Wednesday DA Cynthia Zimmer said although it was more than the state's reimbursement rate it wasn’t criminal and they repaid the money.
Last Fall, the California Department of Food and Agriculture released a state audit saying Kern County fair CEO Mike Alcott and the maintenance supervisor, now identified as William Hebert. Allowed and often participated in the gross mismanagement of funds, including making purchases that had no receipts, excessive and illegal out-of-state travel expenses, expensive dinners, alcohol purchases, large tips, and more.
Wednesday Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer announced charges only against the maintenance supervisor. She said there was no other evidence to suggest wrongdoing against Alcott or any other fair board member.
“Three charges against the Kern County fair’s former maintenance supervisor for theft-related offenses,” said Zimmer.
The DA’s office said Herbert took more than 47,000 pounds of scrap material from the fairgrounds, recycled it, and pocketed the money.
“The bureau of investigation for the district attorney’s office conducted an independent investigation. The starting point was the state’s audit. We went from there and these were the charges that we were able to prove after a lengthy investigation.”
The charges include three counts of grand theft, and each count alleges theft of “greater than $950 or more”. In total, the charges allege a value of ‘greater than $2850.
As 23ABC previously reported the state audit released in 2019 titled gross mismanagement led to the misuse of state resources and multiple violations of state laws.
The report detailed over $300,000 of misused funds including nearly $132,000 of credit card purchases, $30,000 for excessive and illegal out-of-state travel expenses, and more.
A 23ABC investigation in 2019 obtained receipts from Las Vegas restaurants signed by Kern County Fair President and CEO Mike Alcott showing board members spent thousands of dollars.
“The fair board was criticized in an audit for excessive dining, excessive travel, however, those were policy violations rather than theft-related violations,” said Zimmer.
Zimmer said, due to a confidentiality agreement, the state auditor would only provide limited information to her office and did not include specific evidentiary details that supported the auditor’s findings, like who was interviewed and or what was said to the auditor. Despite the DA’s request for more information, the state would not provide more specific details due to the California Whistleblower Protection Act.
She said board members said they did not know they were doing anything wrong and have since repaid the money.
“There was no intent that we could see by any fair board member that they were intending to steal from the fair according to what the attorney general’s office told them, they say that they were told they were doing it the right way,” said Zimmer.
The Kern County Fair did release a statement thanking the DA’s office for their thorough investigation and that they are making every effort to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
23ABC reached out to the state and they said to refer to the DA’s office.