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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 10:01 pm | Fair 46º

 
 
 
 

Former Vector Management District Official Accused of Misusing County-Issued Credit Card

Ex-general manager Brian Passaro is arrested on suspicion of using thousands in taxpayer dollars for personal expenses

The former general manager of Santa Barbara County’s Mosquito and Vector Management District has been arrested on suspicion of using taxpayer money for personal expenses and faces felony charges in Superior Court.

Brian Passaro, who resigned from the job in late 2011 after three years, allegedly used his work credit card for thousands of dollars in personal items, including meals, gas, faster shipping for online orders, alcohol, movie theaters and purchases at Disneyland.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Brian Cota is handling the case and said that what the county Auditor-Controller’s Office considered inappropriate in its internal audit the District Attorney’s Office will consider inappropriate as well.

Cota said the list of Passaro’s charges, which add up to the $5,000 to $10,000 range, can be looked at liberally or strictly, but there are expenses that the audit found were clearly not work-related.

Passaro was arrested in Santa Rosa, where he now lives and works, and was booked into the County Jail in July. He was released on bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 10 in Superior Court.

During investigations by the county Auditor-Controller’s Office and DA’s Office, the special district’s bookkeeper noted that Passaro’s receipts were never itemized.

DA investigator Norma Hansen found that there was a lack of oversight by the special district’s board, lack of transparency in items charged to the credit card, and noticed that the district’s total travel expenses increased every year that Passaro was employed. Expenses went from $2,007 in 2008 to $27,999 in 2010, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

Additionally, “there was no written credit card use policy in place until one was instituted in September 2011.” As general manager, Passaro was in a position to approve his own expenses on the credit card.

Unlike grand theft, for example, there’s no dollar amount threshold for this particular felony, Cota said, so any misappropriated public monies counts as breaking the law. The charges carry a maximum penalty of four years in local jail instead of state prison under Assembly Bill 109.

Enhancements for these criminal charges don’t start until the $65,000 level, which is only relevant in larger cases such as the embezzlement charges against former Santa Barbara Police Department business supervisor Karen Flores, which is also Cota’s case.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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