APPLE VALLEY — The town’s finance director has been charged with a felony in connection to a July 20 crash on Interstate 15 during which he allegedly rear-ended a Toyota Prius, left the driver injured in her car and fled the scene on foot, according to a complaint filed by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and obtained by the Daily Press.
The hit-and-run charge, filed Wednesday morning, comes more than four months after Assistant Town Manager Marc Puckett, 55, told the Daily Press he was “in an accident” but said the involvement of another vehicle in the crash was “an absolute crap story.”
“I really think you’re making a bigger deal out of this than it is,” Puckett told a Daily Press reporter on July 28, one day after suggesting he might have been followed by someone associated with Liberty Utilities — the largest water provider in Apple Valley — prior to the crash.
The town is locked in a legal battle for ownership of Liberty’s water system.
Both Greg Sorensen, president of Liberty’s western region, and Interim Town Manager Lori Lamson denounced Puckett’s comments; however, Lamson only responded after a second inquiry was sent by this newspaper.
The crash occurred just south of Foothill Boulevard on southbound I-15 at approximately 11:30 p.m. July 20 when Puckett, driving his 2011 black Cadillac CTS, allegedly rear-ended a 2011 gray Toyota Prius belonging to Lola Espinoza.
Puckett’s Cadillac careened off the freeway after impact. He detailed his version of the crash while fielding questions during a July 27 phone conversation.
“Here’s what happened,” Puckett told the Daily Press at the time. “I’m on my way home, I was in the slow lane on the 15 freeway, and something ran out in front of me. I went down the embankment into the flood control channel. My phone was dead, so I walked down the embankment and used someone’s cell phone.”
Espinoza was treated at Kaiser Permanente in Ontario after she complained of pain to her left side, left wrist, neck and back; the Prius sustained extensive rear-end damage and was deemed totaled, according to a previous Daily Press report.
As of Wednesday, Puckett has not responded to additional requests for comment.
In August, in response to questions regarding possible disciplinary action against Puckett, Lamson said the town “takes this matter seriously and continues to monitor the situation closely.”
She noted the “unfortunate incident” occurred after work hours and said, “any personnel issues between the employee and the Town must remain confidential.”
“The Town has an obligation to protect the privacy rights of its employees,” Lamson said. “It should be noted that (state) Labor Code section 432.7 prohibits the Town from utilizing an arrest not resulting in a conviction in determining any condition of employment (including discipline). Here, to the Town’s knowledge, there has not even been an arrest.”
In addition, on Wednesday afternoon, town spokesperson Gina Whiteside said the town had “not received any formal notification of the alleged charges.”
“We are looking into this matter and will evaluate our next steps pending the information we receive,” Whiteside said.
With the charge filed, Puckett could be arrested or willingly turn himself in; however, he was not in custody as of Wednesday evening, according to jail records.
DA spokesperson Chris Lee said an arraignment date has not yet been set, but added he would provide that information once it becomes available. All hearing dates will take place in Rancho Cucamonga, according to court records.
Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press