Eric T. Fresch, the city of Vernon's attorney and top administrator during many of the years that have been under investigation lately for financial improprieties, was found dead by rangers last night on the shoreline of Angel Island State Park in San Francisco Bay. They did not disclose a preliminary cause of death. He had been dodging a state subpoena to talk about Vernon's finances. From the LA Times blog post:
Fresch's death came the same day a state audit was released painting a dire picture of Vernon's finances. The report raised questions about the city's contracting and investment decisions during the time when Fresch was its top administrator. The auditor said her staff could not reach him for an interview despite a deposition subpoena and repeated attempts by process servers to track him down.
Last month, the California Public Employees Retirement System announced that it was slashing Fresch's pension after finding irregularities with it and those of other Vernon officials.
Fresch was widely viewed as the most powerful decision-maker in the city's government in recent years, and made as much as $1.6 million in 2008. He began advising Vernon as an outside attorney in the 1980s and in 2003 became city attorney. He was the city administrator from 2006 to 2009 and moved into a consultant role in 2009. Late last year, Vernon announced Fresch would end his service to the city in May.
The Times reported yesterday that state auditors had been unable for months to get Fresch to speak with them. "Fresch made as much as $1.6 million in 2008 as Vernon’s top administrator and was widely viewed as the most powerful decision-maker in the city’s government," the LAT said. "I have been state auditor for 12 years, and I have never experienced something like this before,” Elaine Howle said. “From our perspective, it’s very suspicious....He was someone we really needed to talk to in order to do our job.”