Kings County DA Fagundes under investigation for using taxpayer money to pay sister, brother

A listing from showcase.com shows the building that housed the Decorium for rent. Courtesy/showcase.com

This article was updated at June 5 at 11:50am to add that the Cliffs Hotel conference center requires room reservations, and that Fagundes stated the payments to his sister were preapproved by a Kings County Fiscal Analyst.

Kings County District Attorney (DA) Keith Fagundes paid county funds of at least $8594.77 and up to $12,152 to his sister, Jacqulyn Smith, and brother Ronnie Fagundes, for county expenses between 2019 and 2022, according to receipts obtained by Visalia-Hanford-Lemoore Future newspaper and the Valley Voice.

The transactions include multiple payments for use of his sister Jacqlyn Smith’s $1.4 million house in Pismo Beach for DA staff retreats and payments to his brother’s printing business in Hanford. Payments to Smith were made using a state credit card known as CalCard. Payments to his brother were by check.

Officials with Kings County told the Visalia-Hanford-Lemoore and the Voice that the payments are under active investigation.

 

Fagundes says the arrangement saved the county’s money

Former Kings County Assistant DA Matt Darby attended several of the retreats and told the Voice that he knew the home was Fagundes’ sisters house.

“I thought Fagundes was saving the tax payer money. I didn’t know he was paying his sister,” he said.

Darby said that he just recently found out about the payments to Smith.

“At first, Keith would have team building retreats once a year, but by my last year it was all the time. It was taking time away from my family and my work so I tried to get out of going,” said Darby.

Fagundes stated that he was, in fact, saving taxpayer funds.

“For six years, my sister donated the house for our retreats,” he said. Fagundes added that all expenses involving his sister were preapproved by his fiscal manager Veronica Mello.

That changed when Fagundes asked the county to pay the attendees a per diem for food and travel. The county finance person said that a per diem can only be paid accompanied with a hotel bill.

“So we got the house at a bargain basement price in order for the attendees to receive their per diem. We paid the minimum which saved the county thousands of dollars,” said Fagundes.

Fagundes said that the first six years of using his sister’s house for free he paid, out of his own pocket, about $15,000 on meals and other expenditures for his staff.

The retreats, Fagundes said, were necessary to train employees and build a management team.

“They stay more focused outside of the office during the trainings,” he said.

 

Payments under investigation, may have violated county policies

Evan Jones, County Purchasing Director confirmed that transactions by Fagundes appear to violate the county’s Conflict of Interest Policy which says decisions cannot be made that would result in financial benefit to an immediate family member.

The policy states:  “In order to avoid any actual or apparent conflict of interest, purchasing personnel shall avoid making award decision(s) that affect their personal financial interest or that of a family member.”

​“Any such interest in a county or bidder must be disclosed to the Purchasing Manager as soon as the interested employee knows or reasonably ought to know of the conflict. The Purchasing Manager will take action to have​that person abstain from any further involvement in that acquisition.”

The payments to Smith could also be a violation of CalCard rules.

“Any purchase found to be in violation of County Policy shall be the responsibility of the cardholder and disciplinary action may be taken,” the policy states.

Beyond the issues of possible violation of county policies, there is the matter of funneling transactions through a business entity that may have been defunct at the time the charges were made.

Decorium Décor, once at 4809 S. Mooney Blvd. in Visalia, closed on December 23, 2020 according to the Visalia City Clerk.

A Loopnet.com listing shows the 4809 S. Mooney address was listed for lease on January 6, 2021.

Additionally, an update posted on the business’s Google profile on June 2, 2021 states that “Due to Covid-19 and our horrible Governor, Gavin Newsoms’ inability to run California, I (like thousands of others) have chosen to relocate my business to another state!!”

Several thousand dollars in payments were paid to the Decorium after the business closed.

Kings County has initiated an investigation into Fagundes’ actions but cannot comment beyond that, said Kyria Martinez, the Assistant Kings County Administrative Officer.

An employee of the Kings County DA’s office who attended a few of the retreats told the Voice that a Kings County investigator contacted them about the payments to Smith: the investigator wanted to know if they were aware that the location of the retreat was owned by Fagundes’ sister.

What’s unclear is why Fagundes, who is one of the most prominent public figures in the county, would risk the appearance of a conflict-of-interest involving county payments to his relatives when similarly-priced retreat facilities with no connection to his family are readily available in Pismo Beach.

The Cliffs Hotel charges $350 for a full day’s use of a conference room for up to 10 people, including a table with linens, said a spokesperson. Food and beverage service are also available for an extra charge.

Fagundes said that to get those rates if you also rent hotel rooms which would add another $950 a night for just three attendees.

​The county finance department produced receipts for four DA Office retreats between February 17, 2021 and August 4, 2021.

Decorium Décor billed Fagundes’ office $1,000 for use of a conference facility February 17, 2021 for four people over a two-day period, according to county receipts. The payment was made using state CalCard issued to Fagundes.

Decorium also billed Fagundes’ office $772.50 for a “team building” retreat on April 12 – 14, 2021 for six people. The payment was also made with the same CalCard.

Another billing from Decorium for $1,175 was paid on June 24 also using the same CalCard. This one was for five people and occurred on June 14 – 16, 2021. The purpose was labeled “Team Building and Realignment.”

Then on August 10, 2021 a new entity called the Coral Court Conference Facility billed the county $550 for an August 4, 2021 retreat labeled “Strategic Planning between Victim Witness and DDA Staff.” This was also paid with the same CalCard.

​Expenditures by the DA’s office to Fagundes’ brother’s printing company included everything from Business cards and DA emblazoned polo shirts to an $1,100 expenditure for lettering on an Emergency Response Trailer. The trailer work was invoiced on April 6, 2021.

The trailer itself became an issue in the campaign when his opponent Sarah Hacker questioned why the trailer was being stored at Fagundes’ residence when it was county property. The Board of Supervisors later told him to return the trailer to county property.

Other expenditures on January 8 of this year included tablecloths printed with the DA’s logo. The cost was $300.

Fagundes said that his brother was only one of five vendors the county uses for printing services.

“We use who we can get at the best price and be able to do the job,” he said.

Fagundes’ opponent in the DA’s race, former employee Sarah Hacker said,

​“A district attorney has a responsibility to the citizens of Kings County. If Keith Fagundes has been misusing public funds, he has failed in his duty to our citizens again – not only in his mistreatment of employees, or his abuse of power, but also in taking taxpayer money to benefit his family members.”

31 thoughts on “Kings County DA Fagundes under investigation for using taxpayer money to pay sister, brother

(Commenter ID is a unique per-article, per-person commenter identifier. If multiple names have the same Commenter ID, it is likely they are the same person. For more information, click here.)

  1. This is absurd! We have read Fagundes is under investigation for other issues and the focus of a sexual harassment lawsuit. NOW we read he’s using county taxpayers money to essentially profit his family members?!?! Fagundes has so many pending ethical and likely legal issues this is beyond acceptable for him to remain as a District Attorney! How can this be? I am beyond sickened to know how anyone could vote for this man and ignore the obvious. And Fagundes has an excuse for EVERYTHING. It’s so insane! Unbelievable….I’m ripping my hair out I’m so annoyed! Good night! Slams door…

  2. Embezzlement, sexual harassment, numerous settlements for his behavior and treatment of women….What more does Kings County need to see? Now we’re all paying to support his family and pay for his sister’s coast house? The AG needs to arrest Keith Fagundes already.

  3. I agree with both of the above commenters. There are so many people who seem to want to turn a blind eye and refuse to objectively look at the facts. Has anyone else not NOTICED that Sarah Hacker hasn’t even a whiff of sandal? Her reputation is excellent and any claim she has made against Keith Fagundes is backed up with examples and legal documents. NOT HIM! Even yesterday, he wrote a blanket text saying Sarah was soft on crime. That is a Saul Aliniski move. What evidence does he have for that claim? NOTHING!
    As a self proclaimed right wing fundamentalist Christian, I throw down the gauntlet to other Christians and Catholics to ask them to justify voting for Keith Fagundes after all these allegations and investigations. And, let me begin by saying that Sarah Hacker has never said whether is she is pro life or pro choice. We don’t know. The only hint we have is she said if Roe v. Wade was overturned, she would support that law. My conclusion – she is a law ENFORCER and not a law maker. That is the job of a DA and what we need as a DA. I plea to my fellow Christians to support Sarah Hacker for District Attorney and give Sheriff Dave Robinson a district attorney he can work with.
    I support Hacker for District Attorney!

  4. This is insane!!!! Citizens need to wake up and realize the smoke and mirrors Fagundes is putting up. Straight up corruption at its finest! Everything being alleged is coming true, backed up with evidence, and yet people are still supporting this man? Even if Hacker isn’t as refined as a public speaker, at least she has ethics and experience to do the job! I guarantee if this man isn’t stopped, we will be paying for his bad decisions for years to come. I’d rather see that money go into the pockets of those who are patrolling the streets and actually serving our community for the better! Come on Kings County, wake up!

  5. OMG THEY WERE PAID FOR USING THEIR HOUSE! HOW DARE THEY! HOW DARE A CITIZEN GET PAID FOR SERVICES! I NEVER HEARD OF A HOUSE BEING RENTED FOR VACATION USE OR TO STAY IN!!

    • It is in direct violation of county policy in regards to spending. Do you read? Because you definitely text like my elderly mother. In all caps because she can’t hear or see. 🤦 P.s. the username suits your bland comment 👌.

  6. I removed some comments that were pretending to be Mark Pratter and Catherine Doe, the two writers of this piece.

    They were not from either writer. Instead, they were from a commenter who is banned and was using a VPN service to get around our block on them.

    Here is a screenshot to show most of what was removed in this thread. All the comments in this screenshot are from the same person.

    https://i.imgur.com/nZ6PZFM.png

    There is a deep irony in spamming the comment “What’s your name coward” while wholesale using two other people’s identities.

  7. Fagundes is corrupt and a serial sexual harasser. This unethical embarrassment to Kings County needs to be voted out, disbarred and most likely arrested.

    • Here He Is Committing Crime After Crime.. And Yet Wanting To Convict Those Who Are Paying His Salary , And If That’s Not Enough He’s Giving Special Privileges To Family Members. It’s Really No Surprise Because Half Or More Of The Police Force Are As Dirty Or Worse Then He Is.

  8. Now Fagundes claims because his fiscal analyst Veronica Mello approved the transactions it was ok! I bet she went to the “retreats” too. Are you joking? Here we go again with the EXCUSES. And people believe this circus? The citizens demand that Valley Voice press the local government to investigate all expenses approved by this fiscal manager. Please do not stop this combined with sexual harassment claims, conflicts on cases, misuse of property, and now funneling money to family is turning criminal. If this happened you know there is so much monkey business occurring that we are unaware of. We want to know where and how are taxpayers money is spent! We want accountability. And did Fagundes right hand man Phil Espenschade who’s photo was in the newspaper know too?!?! How many “retreats” did he attend? What perks are all these people giving themselves? This group of county workers is not serving the People but created a little business and facade all to benefit themselves! It’s so grotesque and wrong. We demand Kings County and Department of Justice investigate this fully. Please for the sake of preserving justice and integrity of the DAs Office remove Fagundes and his entire team. This MUST stop NOW.

    • Sunlight is a great disinfectant. Perhaps Ms. Mello should return the favor and throw Keith under the bus.

  9. Here is another new insight into Fagundes’ character:
    He found out one of his staff is supporting Sarah Hacker. She has a service dog that is about to be retired. The policy of the county is to give the officer first offer to keep the dog, however, Keith is so vindictive, he is going to the Board of Supervisors to ask them to reverse that policy so he can give the dog to someone else.. All dog lovers should be outraged that this officer who has cared for the dog for ten years may have to give up this dog for the ‘crime’ of voting for Hacker. Anyone who has cared for a dog knows the attachment that is created between the person and the dog.
    What kind of person does stuff like this?

    • I’m not surprised! If you are referring to Diamond, that beautiful dog has brought a lot of positive attention to the District Attorneys Office and Keith has shamefully exploited her for his benefit and public support. Diamond has one handler and should she be retired, the handler should have the absolute right to keep her for her remaining days. That’s best for the dog and handler alike. If what you are saying is true (which I believe) the County needs to take action before another lawsuit is initiated.

    • Oh my! That is soulless to do that and right in line with Fagundes’ vindictive little short man personality. He will win re-election. The blind people do not care about his indiscretions and corruption. watch out people he’s going to become even more brazen. Napoleon is going to unleash on a whole new level. You get what you ask for citizens. If he wins he’ll take a few “retreats”, get his brother to print some new T shirts with his name boldly printed on them, and continue victimizing everyone while claiming he is the real victim. The cycle will continue and nothing will be done. He’ll probably send the retired dog to the glue factory and laugh while doing it.

    • As it’s currently written in the policy manual, as of today’s date on the county website, “At the discretion of the Chief Investigator (Charlie Flores), the primary handler shall have the first option at purchasing the dog from the county”.

  10. Speaking of Charlie Flores, that guy is nothing but a Keith “yes-boy.” How do you try to take a dog away from someone? The DAs office is comprised of nothing but vindictive short men.

  11. Keith’s “fiscal analyst” Veronica Mello, otherwise known as his secretary, rubber stamped his embezzlement and now he’s throwing her under the bus! Bet that goes over real well.

  12. Let me guess, he’s a dumbacrat right. They are all the same, criminals, liers, cheater’s, murders. Just imagine a society without dumbacrats.

    • Dr IRQ, Keith Fagundes was a democrat but registered as a Republican when he first ran for the DA office seven years ago. However, skunks don’t change their stripes, do they?
      Let’s clean up Kings County by voting for Sarah Hacker! She is the real deal.
      God, please give Sarah a resounding, landslide victory.
      In Jesus name. Amen!

  13. Happiness can always be found, even in the darkest of times…if one only remembers to turn on the light.

    If this man magically remains in his current position with this election..enough has been established to start the process to remove Mr. Frumunda from office. Google into Cal. Gov Code 3060-3074 or so if curious.

  14. I thought I saw Fagundes and his right hand man Excsbendvhade fueling up their cars with county gas. I bet they use CalCards to give them plenty of gas paid by us citizens now that it’s neat $7 a gallon! They are living the life treating this county DAs office like it’s their little private business! They high five each other daily knowing they are pulling a fast one on everyone.

  15. When/if the Board of Supervisors decides the dog/Officer issue, Can people comment publicly when it’s addressed? “Chief” Charlie Flores alone makes the call??? Sounds like a power trip to me.

  16. If it’s in the policy manual about the dog going to the handler first then it will have to go before the board of Sups. It would be on the agenda the Friday before. People can make public comment live online and probably should.

  17. Tough election night at the Fagundes house. He probably gave everyone the silent treatment and pouted in his bedroom. Start dusting that office and packing up little man. Hacker and her team are on the way to save the day. And take down those Fagundes signs. we are sick of seeing them around town. Bye! bye!

  18. Republicans… Corrupt all the way up. Right up to the former POTUS. people please watch the hearings tommorrow. and get rid of Fagundes

Use your voice

Your email address will not be published.