UPDATE: “I can neither confirm nor deny our Office’s involvement with any matters related to the Town of Parker.” – Arizona Auditor General’s Office by email Friday.
An employee was fired and escorted from Town Hall last Friday, according to a press release by the Town. Jennifer Alcaida had been in an administrative role with the Town of Parker for many years, and her actions while employed are now being investigated criminally, according to reports.
“On September 23rd, 2021, the Town of Parker was notified by the Arizona Auditor General’s Office that an interview was conducted with a Town employee,” the statement said. “Based on that information, as well as communication the Town had directly with the employee, the Town terminated the employee effective Friday, September 24th, 2021.”
The matter is under investigation by the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office and the La Paz County Attorney’s Office, according to the release.
Alcaida is reportedly alleged to have misappropriated Town funds during her employment. The news comes at a time when the Town of Parker has been the focus of several controversies regarding personnel management and use of funds. Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer has come under criticism from council members for her leadership, most recently around the termination of another employee, Darla Tilley, who ran the Parker Senior Center and its programs.
Tilley wrote to Parker Live after the news of Alcaida’s firing, saying, “She is also one of the people that accused me of wrongdoing. It’s all making a little more sense now.”
Another former employee wrote to Parker Live, characterizing Alcaida as a “personal friend” of Wedemeyer’s and saying, “The citizens should have answers to the corruption going on at Town Hall.”
The Town says that it will fully cooperate with the investigation into Alcaida’s actions while employed there, and will release further information as it becomes available.
Alcaida’s thoughts about the termination of Tilley’s employment with the Town were a matter of public record, when she wrote a ‘Letter to the Editor’ of the Parker Pioneer in July which said, “One of my favorite quotes of all time states, ‘You are always one choice away from a completely different life.’ Choices were made and now they need to be lived with. Darla chose to retire, chose to leave. Bottom line. … It is time to move on. The choice was made and, as adults, we need to live with the consequences of those choices. Let’s quit beating a dead horse.”
Council member Randy Hartless said he doesn’t know anything more than the general public, but believes that other council members do, while information is withheld from him.
“This is just the way it works there,” he said. “Here’s a good example. (The council) had a public meeting on Tuesday where we were talking about some special curbs that need replaced. Back a few months ago, Public Works guy Steve Ziegler comes up and says, ‘My guys aren’t trained in the special standards for these curbs to replace them, I’d like to hire this firm to do it,’ and it was around $15,000. It became a whole point of contention with (council members) Frank Savino and Jerry Hooper saying no, we think our own guys can do it. Steve said no, you’re wrong, and it went to a vote, and the council voted 4-2 to hire the outside firm to do it. This is months ago. So now, on Tuesday, they’re talking about these curbs and it’s going on and on and I said, ‘I thought we already approved these curbs?’ (Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer) said, ‘Well, honestly, I told Steve to hold off and not to do the bid yet.’ Really? This council voted to award that bid. Then it turned out that Frank and Jerry were in her office when she was discussing it afterwards. How can it be legal that an action of the Parker Town Council gets ignored by the Town Manager, who’s listening to two of the council members who are telling her to ignore it? There is a small faction running this town.”
Hartless said he doesn’t know what Alcaida was terminated for, or what the investigation is about.
“This is not the way it’s supposed to work,” he said.
Parker Live has asked the Arizona Auditor General’s Office for more information about the case and will update this article if we hear anything back.