Supervisor Kendall Smith, after finally writing a check for her travel not traveled, issued a statement claiming vindication that turned the truth inside out.
“As a matter of principal I was interested in seeing this issue reviewed in court. Earlier this year it was. I gave a comprehensive statement to the court. The judge found no wrongdoing on my part and ruled in my favor. That's what I was looking for. The BOS travel policy in question was changed more than three years ago, my statement to the court still stands, the issue of the money has been addressed so everyone should be able to move forward now.”
Judge Behnke, in his ruling dismissing the small claims case brought by the editor of this paper in an effort to recover the taxpayer's money, made it clear that he was not ruling on the merits of the case. The judge simply dismissed it, saying that the editor lacked standing to bring suit, that it was up to the District Attorney to decide whether or not bring it forward where the issue could then be decided on its merits. If all Smith wanted was her day in court, and if Behnke's non-conclusive ruling was it, she could have written a check and issued her self-serving statement the next day.
District Attorney Eyster was prepared to give Smith her day in court, if that's what she really wanted. Reliable sources say that Eyster told Smith's attorney, Jim Larson of Fort Bragg, that he intended to prosecute Smith for a felony and that her choices were to write a check to reimburse the County or present herself at the jail to be booked.
At that point, Smith decided to abandon her “principled” stand.
The taxpayers weren't the only victims as Smith disingenuously jibbed and jibed over the last several years. She said former Supervisor Patti Campbell did the same thing, which Campbell flatly denied in testimony before the Grand Jury. Smith said the Clerk of the Board and the Auditor told her, in effect, that falsifying her travel claims was the standard practice. But it was Smith who repeatedly signed claims under penalty of perjury to fraudulently claim reimbursement for travel not traveled.
No sooner did the Grand Jury blow the whistle than Smith lobbied to change the travel policy. Instead of having to submit claims to be reimbursed for legitimate travel for the purposes of doing the public's business, Smith determined it would really be better to be paid an exorbitant monthly travel allowance with no troublesome requirement that it be documented. Thanks to Smith, the Supes no longer need documentation to be paid for travel not traveled. Adding insult to injury, the “travel” allowance counts towards the Supervisor's retirement.
A reader writes: “Kendall Smith must have been chuckling to herself as she wrote out a check dated April 1, to pay back a small fraction of the travel money she cheated the County out of. She paid no penalty or interest on the purloined funds and walked away with several times the amount she paid back. This tawdry episode probably cost the County a cool hundred grand for all the high paid staff time devoted to the issue over the last four or five years. And Smith continues to rack up impressive travel claims as she travels around the state at will, attending meetings where she allegedly advances the County interest, but for which she seldom if ever reports back to the County. Yes, it has been quite an elaborate April Fool's joke, but the voters may have the last laugh if Smith is myopic enough to think she can actually be re-elected after cheating on her travel claims and refusing to take a pay cut like everyone else who works for the County of Mendocino.”