SBPEA Sues, Sics DA On Past General Manager Blough

(October 17)  Fourteen months after his curious departure as the general manager of the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, Bob Blough has been accused by the current union leadership of absconding with association funds and making unauthorized expenditures.
In addition to seeking a criminal investigation of Blough from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, the board of directors for the San Bernardino Public Employees Association voted to file a civil lawsuit against him.
The action by the board comes after the completion of a forensic audit of the union’s financial books that was completed October 6. The results of the audit justify both civil and criminal action, association officials said.
The San Bernardino Public Employees Association represents and handles collective bargaining for over 11,000 employees working for San Bernardino County and 3,000 others working for 16 of the county’s cities – Barstow, Big Bear, Chino, Chino Hills, Colton Fontana, Hesperia, Loma Linda, Montclair, Needles, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Rialto, San Bernardino, and Upland, as well as three cities in east Los Angeles County, Claremont, Pomona and West Covina, and Banning in Riverside County.
“The employment of SBPEA General Manager Bob Blough has come to an end,” a posting on the SBPEA website’s homepage in August 2013 tersely said. There was no explanation offered at that time for his abrupt exodus. He was replaced on what was supposed to be an interim basis by Deidre Rodriguez. More than a year later, Rodriguez remains in that position.
Blough, who replaced the late Chris Prato as the association’s general manager in 2007, appeared dedicated, if somewhat theatrical in his approach. In 2008 Blough wore a chicken suit to a board of supervisors meeting in 2008 to protest the board’s offer of a $100 million increase in increased salaries and benefits to county employees as too meager, or in his words, a  “fowl offer.”
In 2012 he was highly critical of county chief administrative officer Greg Devereaux’s contract proposals that contained retirement and health benefit reductions, after those givebacks had been accepted by some of the other bargaining units in the county that represent public safety employees and management personnel.
In the summer of 2013, the SBPEA found itself under challenge, fending off several efforts to decertify SBPEA as the representative of some employee divisions, including one by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and another by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. FSCME.
“The SBPEA Board of Directors has requested that District Attorney Mike Ramos investigate funds that are missing from the San Bernardino Public Employees Association,” according to SPEA President Ron Dunn. “This request was made after SBPEA completed an internal investigation of association finances. A  key component of that investigation was a special audit. SBPEA tasked an independent auditor with reviewing financial irregularities that had come to light at the end of the tenure of former SBPEA General Manager Bob Blough.”
According to Dunn, “Mr. Blough had been terminated for, among other things, refusing to allow SBPEA’s auditing firm to conduct the annual audit of the Association’s finances.”
That was the first explanation given as to why Blough had left the organization in 2013.
“The special audit ordered by the SBPEA Board of Directors revealed that association money was unaccounted for and that there had been several unauthorized expenditures,” Dunn said. “Upon receiving this special audit, the SBPEA Board of Directors unanimously voted to take the audit to the district attorney. I personally delivered the information to District Attorney Mike Ramos on October 10, 2014 on behalf of SBPEA’s directors and membership. SBPEA has requested that the District Attorney thoroughly investigate this matter and that all criminal acts be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. SBPEA is also bringing a civil action against Mr. Blough to recover the funds.”
The moves by the association against Blough at this late date, coming so long after his removal as general manager, was questioned in some quarters. Immediately after his departure in 2013, there were reports Blough was being investigated by the district attorney’s office for potential financial improprieties. No prosecution ensued, an indication the case against him is less than solid. Moreover, the lawsuit and the report of the request to the district attorney’s office for an investigation comes a month-and-a-half after Paula Ready, who was the president of SBPEA before, during and for one year after his departure, was replaced by Dunn, a sign of a possible power struggle at the association’s leadership level.

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