Complications for the City of Chula Vista and police chief David Bejarano have begun to pile up like cars on a rain-slicked San Diego freeway. In early April, Art Moreno, head of Presidential Security Services, filed a complaint with the Chula Vista Police Department against Bejarano for “check fraud,” writing unauthorized checks on the company’s account. Bejarano, a former president of the company, is still a shareholder, though he has filed suit in Superior Court to dissolve the business. In the meantime, information continues to surface regarding the intertwined relationship between Bejarano, the City of Chula Vista, and South Bay Community Services, a nonprofit social service agency.
Presidential Security is a private security company with four corporate partners, David and Esperanza Bejarano and Art and Colleen Moreno. In 2006, when the Bejaranos and Morenos joined forces, Art Moreno was a guard at Donovan state prison. He retired in April after 25 years. The company hired the Bejaranos’ son Michael as a security guard, and he was later promoted to office manager.
David Bejarano wears and has worn many hats. From 1999 to 2003, he served as the chief of the San Diego Police Department. According to his statement of economic interests, he draws an annual pension of over $100,000 from the City of San Diego.
He currently sits on the Chula Vista Elementary School District’s school board. The board appointed him to the seat vacated by Cheryl Cox when she became mayor, and Bejarano was elected to the board two years later. His statement of economic interests lists his wife as an executive secretary for the school district.
Bejarano is also on the board of directors of a Chula Vista bank that he cofounded. A 2008 Union-Tribune article reported that Vibra Bank “hopes to capitalize on the large number of Mexican entrepreneurs and professionals who are launching businesses on this side of the border.” The bank’s website identifies Bejarano as the owner of Presidential Security Consulting Company and describes the company as “providing security consulting services to foreign-owned companies operating in Mexico.”
The media reported in early May on Moreno’s check-fraud accusation. At the same time, the public learned that Bejarano owned a private security company and that this is a violation of city policy. The Union-Tribune interviewed Chula Vista’s city attorney Bart Miesfeld. In the paper’s May 7 story, Miesfeld stated that “as long as Bejarano is trying to cut his ties with the company, and as long as his responsibilities there do not interfere with his duties as police chief, he is not violating city policy.…”
But Chula Vista’s city policy number 903 says, “Sworn Police Department employees are prohibited from engaging in any outside activities for compensation, business ownership or partnership, or employment activity that… (2) Is a private police agency within the city limits of Chula Vista.”
Bejarano was sworn in as Chula Vista’s police chief on September 1, 2009. Three weeks later, on September 23, he resigned as president of Presidential Security, signing an Amended Shareholders Agreement. The effective date of the agreement was August 28. The document states: “As of the Effective Date…Raul David Bejarano resigns as President of PSSI. As a result of this change, Raul David Bejarano…will not receive any salary or vehicle allowance beyond the split discussed in Paragraph 3 below. Raul David Bejarano’s name shall not be used on any marketing or other public material created by PSSI.”
The split discussed in paragraph 3 concerned net profits, with 46 percent distributed to the Morenos, 44 percent to the Bejaranos, and 10 percent to the corporation’s reserve account. According to Moreno, Bejarano continued to receive monthly checks from Presidential Security through April 2010, and he continued to be involved in running the company.
Moreno provided the Reader several emails. One, written by Bejarano on September 25, 2009, reads: “There is no shortage on our salaries for this month, based on a revised total. Due to the large down payments for Gen Liability Insurance, Umbrella Insurance and Workers’ Comp and to maintaining good daily cash flow, our salary for this month was based on a total of $5000.”
Another email, written by Bejarano to Moreno on September 27, says, “Michael reviews the bills on a daily basis and pays as they arrive. Purchases are made as needed; we’ll continue to run daily admin. responsibilities as we have before.”
According to Moreno, Bejarano has insisted on getting daily activity reports from Presidential Security. As late as January 6, 2010, Bejarano intervened with personnel on behalf of his son Michael, whose job performance was perceived by the Morenos as a problem. David Bejarano emailed a Presidential employee, “You have no authorization to start handling the scheduling. Per corporate law you do not have our authorization.… All employees will be notified that Michael will continue to handle the scheduling. If you start doing the scheduling, then you are being insubordinate to half of the board of directors and your job could also be at risk.”
The “fraudulent” check issue stems from changes made in the Amended Shareholders Agreement. According to Moreno, after the amendment was signed and the bank was informed of the change, the bank removed Bejarano’s name from Presidential Security’s corporate account. Bejarano believes his name was improperly removed. On September 30, Bejarano emailed Moreno, “The title of the President was very specific to ‘marketing and public related materials’ pls refer to the amended agreement. All the items you refer to bank account, Corp. checks etc. have nothing to do with the title of president.”
Moreno’s complaint to the Chula Vista Police Department states that Bejarano signed 15 checks after his name was removed from the account. In an interview in early June, Bejarano said that “any director has an absolute right to write or make an expense on behalf of the company.” He said he had never been told by the bank nor received any correspondence from the bank advising him that he could not write checks. Asked when he had last written a check, he said it was sometime in January of this year. He added, “Mr. Moreno decided not to pay my son, who was the office manager, the full salary he had been receiving for well over a year, so the business checks had to do with paying him the difference.”
Bejarano said that he doesn’t know when the business will be dissolved. He said that long before he was appointed chief of police, “I had made every offer to remove myself from the partnership but was unsuccessful. Then, finally, in September or October I was compelled to file a civil lawsuit to remove myself from the partnership.… Since my appointment, I have not been involved in running anything involving the business, I’m not involved in day-to-day operations, I don’t talk to employees or clients, no involvement other than on paper. I have a financial interest. And again, all this has been disclosed to the city manager.”
Presidential Security has had contracts with a number of Chula Vista companies, including South Bay Expressway. It also has had a contract with South Bay Community Services, a nonprofit agency that helps families in crisis and is funded in part with taxpayer money. In 2009, Chula Vista’s city council authorized $819,728 in funds to the organization “for homeless prevention and rapid re-housing activities.”
Bejarano sits on the board of South Bay Community Services. The contract that his company, Presidential Security, has had with the agency for several years is for $97,454. (The contract expired on June 30 and has not been renewed.)
There is some dispute about when the contract was initiated. Patty Chavez, the agency’s community relations director, said she believes Bejarano originally brought in the contract in 2005 under the name of U.S. Security and that he was invited onto the board later, in November 2006. “I was not on the board when the contract was obtained,” Bejarano stated in a June 1 interview.
However, Moreno has provided the Reader a copy of the original contract dated November 2006. A November 20, 2006 email from the agency supports this time line. Other documentation indicates that Bejarano was a director at South Bay Community Services as early as 2005. That year, the agency listed Bejarano among its board members on Form 990, an Internal Revenue Service form that nonprofits are required to file.
Chavez says that the agency’s bylaws, which are consistent with state law, allow up to 49 percent of the directors to have contracts with the agency. Contracts with directors, however, are subject to California Corporations Code section 5233, which pertains to self-dealing transactions. Before approving a contract with a director, the board must either obtain approval from the state’s attorney general or determine that it “could not have obtained a more advantageous arrangement with reasonable effort.”
In 2008, Form 990 asked the question, “During the tax year, did any person who is a current or former officer, director, trustee, or key employee have a direct business relationship with the organization?” The agency answered no, despite its contract with Presidential Security. When asked about this discrepancy, Kathryn Lembo, the agency’s chief executive, said, “We answered wrong. I’m going to take full responsibility for this, and I’m going to ask to have it amended.”
Many people in Chula Vista were surprised to discover that Lembo had a hand in picking the city’s new chief of police. She sat on the Community Advisory Panel with three other people to give input last summer. Regarding this procedure, Bejarano said, “She was one of the community representatives on the panel, and she also disclosed to the city manager that, in fact, three finalists all were board directors for South Bay Community Services, and they were all interviewed by Kathy and the rest of the panel. The other members that were finalists for this position are former captain Don Hunter, who was a former captain here, and also Chief Adolfo Gonzalez. My relationship has always been professional with Kathy Lembo. I don’t socialize with her, never have.” Hunter has subsequently retired from the police department and become a full-time director at South Bay Community Services.
Is there or has there been an investigation into Moreno’s charges? According to Bejarano, in an interview on May 7 with Channel 6 News, “I’ve actually been investigated, reviewed, by an independent law enforcement agency. They have come to the conclusion — this was two months ago — that the allegations are totally unfounded and they’re baseless.” Asked in June the name of the law enforcement agency that had conducted the investigation, Bejarano said it was the district attorney’s office. The district attorney’s office, in accordance with its policy, was unable to confirm or deny that an investigation had taken place. On May 26, more than a month after filing charges, Moreno received a letter from Chula Vista’s city attorney, Bart Miesfeld, stating that an initial investigation is under way and that the complaint has been forwarded to the district attorney’s office.