City’s Former Finance Director Becomes Former Finance Director for Bankrupt City of San Bernardino
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – After less than a year on the job, the finance director of San Bernadino has called it quits.
Abandoning his high profile job in the city of San Bernardino, Jason Simpson, the soft-spoken former finance director for the city of Desert Hot Springs gave his two-week resignation notice to San Bernardino city officials.
The city is seeking bankruptcy protection and has shed 200 employees from the city payroll since July this year.
A query of city officials in San Bernardino revealed they knew nothing of the pile of controversies in Desert Hot Springs that Simpson left buried behind in 2012 when he suddenly quit Desert Hot Springs by jumping to the San Bernardino job.
Rubber Stamp Simpson
Controversy erupted with a series of articles examining where and how city money was lost. Jason Simpson earned the sobriquet “Rubber Stamp Simpson” for his rubber stamping every money losing gamble of city funds including the $250,000 lost for the Music Festival handed over to Tony Clarke and the $250,000 lost to for the Flamingo Hotel and more.
As a result of generous city spending, primarily high pay to city management, and under a mounting loss of city revenue, Jason Simpson left Desert Hot Springs facing a budget deficit.
Jason Simpson also appeared to have secretly manipulated the hiring of his former cronies to work for the city of Desert Hot Springs. Simpson lived in the city of Temecula – an hour drive away – where prior to his employ in Desert Hot Springs he worked as assistant finance director for Temecula.
The Temecula Connection
In December 2011 the city discovered an unusual Temecula connection with certain staff on city payroll as well as city contracts awarded to people living in Temecula. Investigative reports were published exposing local Cabot Museum Curator Terry Chapman as having previously enjoyed working a position under Simpson for the city of Temecula.
The hiring of Terry Chapman by the city of Desert Hot Springs for the Museum was not advertised nor was anyone else considered for the $5,000 a month position. Although Chapman had neither academic nor professional qualifications generally associated with the position, her unique relationship with Jason Simpson was apparently sufficient for her hiring.
It must be made clear that nothing was ever discovered or suggested to substantiate that a physical relationship ever existed between Jason Simpson and Terry Chapman.
Once the relationship tying Jason Simpson to Terry Chapman became public knowledge then Chapman stopped working for the city and Simpson left shortly thereafter.
The Golden Parachute
Bailing out usually comes at a price. Jason Simpson nearly left his job in Desert Hot Springs in March 2012 with a small piece of that coveted “golden parachute.”
Had Simpson not been hired by the city of San Bernardino, he smartly lined up two high-payoff options. These desirable options are becoming increasingly typical for departing government officials.
Option one was a stress related disability. Option two was a harassment lawsuit.
Jason Simpson was a shrewd money manager and had already set the wheels of perception in motion in the immediate months prior to his departure from the city of Desert Hot Springs as it became increasingly more difficult to ignore the complaining of the rotund man with the beady eyes.
Gifts At Public Expense
City officials became so worried about the potentially detrimental publicity that they simply forked over a going-away-present to Simpson of $60,000 along with a giving him his city purchased cell phone and I-Pad. Yet instead of a big send-off party, Simpson quietly faded away into the night.
The next day he went work as Finance Director for the city of San Bernardino.
Jason Simpson’s most recent resignation comes less than two weeks after interim City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller accepted a job as director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments. The two were credited with discovering the dire budget situation that led to the recommendation for the city to file for bankruptcy protection.
City officials of San Bernardino have not disclosed what parting gifts they intend to give away to Simpson.
For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business. Now online with over 3 million readers worldwide.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader. He served as Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs from January 2014 to January 2015 when he resigned.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Palm Desert, California.