PASADENA (CBSLA.com) — A number of city activists are calling for Pasadena City Controller Michael Beck to retire after the city’s embezzlement scandal, but he says he’s not going anywhere.
The money that was taken in the embezzlement case was done so with the stated intention of beautifying neighborhoods in Pasadena, moving overhead electrical lines underground. However, millions of those dollars disappeared over the period of at least a decade.
The Pasadena City Council met Tuesday evening to discuss the $6.4 million embezzlement scheme for the second time in a week.
When asked how the disappearance of the money could have gone on under his watch for so many years, Beck said: “Actually, to me, I think that’s the more frustrating part of it. What’s frustrating and very disappointing to me is the fact that this activity occurred for so long, and that it wasn’t detected within our organization.”
Three people, including one former Pasadena municipal employee, are facing some 60 charges of embezzlement and related charges.
However, much heat is falling to the seat of the city manager, who oversees the city’s operations.
“What I’m seeing is the same actors, recycling themselves throughout the different communities, going from community to community to community, spreading this very negative culture which is not servicing the public,” activist Jason Hunter said. “And Mr. Beck is one of those.”
Some local observers note that councilman Terry Tornek’s persistent questions on an unrelated issue led to the discovery of the missing money. Tornek himself calls the time frame for the missing money “astounding.”
“I think it’s incredible, and I’m getting a lot of feedback from voters and people and citizens around town, and the initial reaction is shock and dismay, and incredulity that this could be going on for so long,” Tornek said. “And the next reaction is anger.”
Investigations into the embezzlement have multiplied, and the mayor announced a new council committee will be probing what happened, and a separate investigation by a citizens’ task force.
“There’s no question that this was an absolute failure on the part of some staff to detect criminal activity,” Councilman Victor Gordo said. “There’s no question that we have to run this completely to the ground to see who knew what, and when they should have known it, if they didn’t know it.”
Beck says that he has no intention of resigning at the moment and will do “what is best for the organization.”