Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Solid Waste Authority, director part ways amicably

Kevin Hendrick, the former director of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority, had an amicable parting with his employer Friday, but concerns were also aired about missing authority funds.

Hendrick will receive three months' severance pay and the standard retirement benefits given to retired county employees.

He was offered the opportunity to choose retirement after Solid Waste Authority Board members indicated during a closed session Tuesday that they would otherwise seek his termination. Hendrick chose retirement and filed the necessary paperwork on Wednesday.

The Authority Board unanimously approved Hendrick's severance pay during a special session Friday morning.

During the meeting, board chairman and Crescent City Mayor Rich Enea shared information about the discovery of missing cash from authority coffers - a possible impetus for the change in authority leadership.

"Three different independent auditors found there is about $28,000 unaccounted for in the Del Norte Solid Waste Authority," Enea said during Friday's meeting. "So with that information, yesterday the county auditor and I filed a police report with the Sheriff's Office, which is currently conducting an investigation into the missing funds."

Enea said that the shortage was discovered by county Auditor Clinton Schaad months ago and brought to the attention of the board.

Schaad initially suspected the missing cash was tied to the buying back of bounced checks given to the transfer station, but after further research, his office found that bounced checks had nothing to do with it, Schaad said.

Schaad and the authority brought in a certified fraud examiner to confirm his suspicion that there was a larger issue at play with the unaccounted-for funds.

Little information on the missing cash is publicly available, as the matter is under investigation.

Although Authority Board members did not publicly point to the missing funds as the reason for Hendrick's early retirement, on Wednesday Hendrick said that if something "bad" happened on his watch, he accepts responsibility as director.

"He took the high road out," Enea said.

The Solid Waste Authority paid for a forensic audit to look into the matter, but the report is not available to the public as it is evidence for the Sheriff's Office investigation.

Tedd Ward, the authority's program manager, was scheduled tobe appointed as interim directorduring Friday's meeting, but he raised concerns about what type of contract he might serve under in that position.

In a report provided to the board, Ward also detailed his concerns about taking over Hendrick's accounting and bookkeeping duties, for which he has no training.

"I am not willing to assume the responsibilities for assuring that all Authority finances are managed according to acceptable oversight practices, as I am unfamiliar with many of these requirements," Ward's report said.

The missing funds seemed to contribute to Ward's hesitation:

"Considering recent elevated concerns regarding the Authority's financial management, the details of which I have very little knowledge, I feel responsible action must clearly delineate financial responsibility for the continued operations of the Authority," Ward's report said.

Ward had asked the Authority Board to approve a memorandum of understanding that would have mid-management employees, such as Ward as program manager, covered under the contract with other authority employees already under contracts with union SEIU Local 1021.

Mike Sullivan, an Authority Board member and chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, requested at least a few days to clarify the details of Ward's employment and consider his proposition.

"If this memorandum is not approved I don't have an agreement to become interim director that I find acceptable," Ward saidat Friday's meeting, adding that he is seeking a clearer employment agreement. Ward and one other mid-management authority employee were in current negotiations with the former directorfor their employment.

"My understanding is we're appointing you to take over some of those duties - at a higher pay scale - but it's a temporary thing and your other position is not in jeopardy. You are still under that position," Sullivan said.

Ward also said that there are more responsibilities than he can meet on his own, including, he noted, staffing the outreach booth for the Solid Waste Authority at next week's Del Norte County fair. He invited board members to volunteer to help out at the fair.

Authority Board member decided to table the MOU and Ward's appointment to interim director until another closed special session Wednesday.

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