By now everyone must have heard that Apple Valley Assistant Town Manager for Finance Marc Puckett was involved in what is being investigated for a felonious hit-and-run that occurred on July 20 (“Vehicle belonging to AV town manager involved in hit-and-run,” Daily Press, August 7, 2017). Briefly, a woman claims that Mr. Puckett rear-ended her on the I-15 at 11:30 p.m. Mr. Puckett claims she is lying, even though he has acknowledged abandoning his car that night off the side of the freeway in a flood control ditch, in the location where the woman claims to have been hit, and Mr. Puckett’s car appears to have been totaled. As if that’s not enough, Mr. Puckett’s account of what happened that night is incomplete at best, and what he has said about events on that night makes no sense.
Now Mr. Puckett maintains that “The bottom line is this is an accident that happened when I was not at work, during my private time, in my private life, and I’m trying to resolve it … I really have nothing else to say. I’ve said everything I need to say.”
While it may be technically correct that this is a private matter, there clearly are ramifications and potential ramifications that could affect Apple Valley both in the short and long term.
The first issue is that Mr. Puckett has in the past claimed to be the victim of lies (even threatening to sue his detractors), even though subsequent events showed his detractors to be correct.
Another issue is that previously Mr. Puckett’s malfeasances were discovered only after someone else got a chance to look at his work product. If the CHP investigation into this incident shows Mr. Puckett to be at fault — or even calls into question his actions that night — there is a very real possibility that someone else will have to step in to act as the finance manager at least in the interim. With the millions upon millions of dollars that have “disappeared” from the general fund, RDA funds, and HUD funds that we know of, an independent review of the books could precipitate a financial crisis before the Town can seize control of the water company and use the millions in cash flow from that “project” to cover deficiencies in these and other areas.
Then there is the question about what he was doing returning home at that time of night: Was he working? Was he at the Concert Series? Who saw him? Did he seem impaired when he left? What if Town employees (including Town Council members) observed him before he got into his car? Will they testify truthfully on his condition, or will they act to protect a town manager? Any witnesses who work at Town Hall must be forthcoming with authorities, or the Town could become involved in another major scandal. Remember that the last time Mr. Puckett’s work product was criticized, members of the Town Council vouched for him professionally and personally; doing that in this situation could have ramifications.
Keep in mind that in addition to the “missing” millions, the Town needs new revenue for the roughly $9 million (and counting) in obligations due to ongoing golf course operations, along with millions more to continue its eminent domain lawsuit against Liberty Utilities, which has no guarantee of success. The Town Council has announced plans to recoup the lost millions from the golf course via an increase in sales taxes, but the estimated $14 million in liabilities from a failed eminent domain attempt won’t be so easy to repay, especially given the currently low general fund balance, the overall poor state of the Town’s finances, the overall poor state of existing Town services despite expenditures in the tens of millions, and burgeoning costs for law enforcement.
What this all means is that this could not have come at a worse time. Tens of millions are already “missing” and/or pledged, one of the main proponents of the risky eminent domain procedure against Liberty Utilities — the very person who has been “keeping all the balls in the air” — is in personal and perhaps professional jeopardy, and finances are already on a downward trend.
The former town manager has already left, as has a former assistant manager billed as a “water system expert” who, according to the Town Council, was going to shepherd Apple Valley through the complex process of running a water utility.
Some members of the current Town Council have already mentioned not running again, and at least one Town Council member is the target of a sub-rosa replacement effort by others on the Town Council. This could leave Apple Valley owing millions to entities far and wide, with virtually no one to hold accountable … even by the admittedly low accountability standards of governments everywhere.
For background information on Mr. Puckett’s career, see the Puckett Files.