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A Fresno Convention and Visitors Bureau Employee Accused of Embezzling Thousands;
 Used Bureau Credit Card for Unauthorized Purchases

By Jeff St. John, The Fresno Bee, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Nov. 9, 2006 - A Fresno Convention and Visitors Bureau employee has resigned after being accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from the organization, the bureau reported Wednesday.

Jim Pardini, Fresno Convention and Visitors Bureau board chairman, said Wednesday that the employee admitted to using a bureau credit card to pay for thousands of dollars of unauthorized purchases.

Pardini would not reveal the employee's identity but said the matter had been referred to law enforcement.

Fresno Police Department spokesman Jeff Cardinale said Wednesday that the department was investigating activities at the Fresno Convention and Visitors Bureau but could not comment on any aspect of the investigation.

Pardini said the alleged embezzlement was discovered last week, during the bureau's annual audit. The alleged unauthorized spending was done with credit cards previously used by former executive director Lloyd Kennedy and thought to have been destroyed after he retired late last year.

"But obviously the accounts weren't closed, and the cards weren't destroyed," Pardini said.

An audit is under way to determine the exact amount of money lost, Pardini said. He estimated it was in the "thousands" of dollars, but not "tens of thousands" of dollars.

We don't take it lightly," he said. "We know we're the stewards of public funds, and we want to maintain the confidence of our membership and of the city and others involved."

The bureau's annual budget is about $850,000 a year, of which about $735,000 a year is provided by the city of Fresno and the rest from membership dues, he said.

After Kennedy's retirement, the bureau changed its credit card policy so that top managers can use their own cards and then apply for reimbursement, making impossible a repeat of the alleged embezzlement that was revealed Wednesday, Pardini said.

The reporter can be reached at jeffstjohn@fresnobee.com or(559) 441-6637.

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Copyright (c) 2006, The Fresno Bee, Calif.

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