State of Uncertainty
Mum’s the word for many named in the A.G.’s suit against Monterey County Aids Project.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Seventy-two-year-old Arthur Bourdon got the news when a reporter phoned to ask if he knew he was being sued. Minutes later, Bourdon heard a knock at the door of his Monterey home, and a process server appeared, papers in hand.
Attorney General Jerry Brown had named him and 15 other former staff and board members of the Monterey County AIDS Project in an attempt to recover some $2.8 million Brown claims was supposed to benefit people with HIV/AIDS, but instead allegedly paid for fancy dinners, a mortgage payment and personal moving and storage expenses, among others.
“I was surprised. That’s an understatement,” Bourdon says. “I think [MCAP] people were acting in good faith. I wish I could tell you lots more.” But Bourdon, who according to the attorney general’s complaint also worked as MCAP’s bookkeeper in 2004 and ‘05, says his attorney, Neil Shapiro, asked him to say nothing.
Shapiro is even more tight-lipped, refusing to confirm whether he actually represents anyone in the case. Other defendants didn’t return phone calls.
Former MCAP Executive Director Wayne Johnson signed the group’s checks, contracts and expense requests, according to the lawsuit, but others named in the complaint allegedly held the financial reins and failed to ask questions when it appeared funds were being misused.
Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo says his chief of staff met with representatives of the A.G.’s office in San Francisco last week to determine if there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against any of the individuals named in the suit.
“We might have statute of limitations issues,” Flippo says.
He says there is some indication that one of the defendants may have been prosecuted in the past, but adds, “We normally don’t talk about that.”
But many of them, including former MPUSD School Board member Shanda Le Boeuf and former public defender Lorraine Faherty, held prominent positions. “There are a lot of fine people on that board,” Flippo says.
The suit sent shock waves through the small community of AIDS activists in Monterey County, says Central Coast HIV-AIDS Services Director Tom Melville.
He says that explains a clumsy effort to distance CCHAS from the now-discredited MCAP, which for years had struggled financially. Last fall, when it could no longer stay afloat, an MCAP staffer notified the Weekly that the group would join forces with the Salinas-based AIDS services organization John XXIII under the umbrella of Central Coast HIV-AIDS Services, which operates out of the former MCAP office in Seaside. But when news of the lawsuit broke, the CCHAS website was scrubbed of any mention of MCAP. The organization’s staff and board lists, which include at least one former MCAP staffer named in the lawsuit, also disappeared from the site.
Instead, an announcement disavowing any connection between the groups appeared. Melville insists he didn’t intend to deceive the public about CCHAS’s origins, but the two groups never legally merged. When MCAP began to falter, he says, the activists simply wanted their clients to know CCHAS would offer the same HIV testing, social services and support they’d always received.