Our latest information on this original story is included in our ‘Fact Check’ article HERE.
A Town of Parker employee accused the Town Manager of buying almost $49,000 in gift cards on town credit cards and keeping no records of where they went.
Corina Crispin, who is a specialist in the town’s Finance Department, made the accusations in a letter addressed to the Arizona Attorney General and the Parker Chief of Police, with copies going to the Mayor, members of the Parker Town Council, the Board of Supervisors and the media.
In the letter, mailed on Friday, she said she is reporting what she believes to be matters of public concern, but Wedemeyer’s response – via the Town’s attorney – denied any wrongdoing and says Crispin is being investigated for misconduct herself.
“Please consider this letter both a whistleblowing disclosure pursuant to A.R.S 38-532, and a disclosure pursuant to A.R.S 23-1501(c)(ii),” Crispin wrote.
Crispin alleged that Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer used Town of Parker credit cards to purchase $48,900 worth of gift cards, took possession of the gift cards and then kept no records about how the cards were used or who received them.
“The Town paid the credit card charges for the gift cards and Wedemeyer took possession of the gift cards,” Crispin’s letter said. “I do not believe this expenditure was authorized by the Town Council or that it was even aware of the expenditure. It is unclear where the gift cards went or how Wedemeyer used the gift cards. Wedemeyer kept no records of who (if anyone) received the gift cards.”
According to Crispin’s letter, accountants doing their annual audit of the Town’s books discovered the purchases and could find no record of how the gift cards were used. The auditors therefore directed the Town to treat the $48,900 as additional compensation to Wedemeyer, bringing the total value of her compensation to $217,484.95 for the year ending 2017, according to Crispin, “which appears excessive for a town with a population of only 3,026.”
“I do not believe the Town authorized Wedemeyer to receive an additional $48,900 in compensation,” Crispin said, adding that Wedemeyer “subsequently terminated the auditors’ contract.”
In addition, Crispin said Wedemeyer’s $11,000 tax liability on the gift cards as income was later paid by the Town in a separate payment. She also mentioned one recipient, La Paz County Economic Development Corporation Director Skip Becker, who Crispin says was given $2,500 as a “Christmas Bonus” despite not being a Town of Parker employee.
After obtaining a copy of Crispin’s letter over the weekend, Parker Live reached out to Wedemeyer for comment and received the following reply from Justin Pierce, an Mesa, AZ attorney for the Town of Parker:
“The Town of Parker denies the allegations made by Ms. Crispin,” Pierce said. “What’s more, and disappointingly, Ms. Crispin knows that her allegations are false.”
The response went on to accuse Crispin of misconduct, and to imply that her only reason for blowing the whistle now is because she is under investigation herself. “Her allegations are a gross misrepresentation of the truth and the timing of her letter could not be more suspect,” the statement said.
Pierce said that Crispin has “‘blown the whistle’ on nothing at all,” adding that the issues associated with the gift cards were addressed in a public meeting in February and that the issue was resolved with the Attorney General’s Office.
“Now, many months after the resolution of this issue, it is clear that Ms. Crispin has acted solely to try and protect herself from the notices she received that she is under investigation for misconduct and that her separation was imminent for job abandonment,” the statement said. “These false allegations may subject her to a civil penalty of up to $25,000 (See A.R.S. §38-532(M)). That statutory provision was enacted specifically to protect an employer like the Town of Parker against an employee using the “whistleblower” laws as a shield against her own misconduct. The Town will request that the Attorney General’s Office utilize that statutory provision to send a message that such use of the ‘whistleblower’ laws is inappropriate.”
Town Council members Randy Hartless and Vivian Hartless said they were aware of Crispin’s allegations about Wedemeyer, and told Parker Live that, as members of the council, they felt they had been “uninformed” about some of the issues involved:
“Some council members may have been kept in the dark regarding specific events Crispin refers to,” they said. “Despite the town’s assurances that everything is fine, as members of the council, we feel that we’ve been uninformed about some of Crispin’s allegations until her statement was released. Although we have been advised that the allegations are unfounded, it is our intention to see them effectively addressed, and the response offered from ‘the Town’ does not necessarily represent my opinion nor the opinion of councilperson Vivian Hartless.”