An ongoing investigation into allegations of embezzlement at Parker’s town hall led to the dismissal of an employee and the administrative leave of General Manager Lori Wedemeyer after the execution of search warrants at her home and at the town hall.
It began on September 23, when a city employee was questioned by the Arizona Auditor General’s office about allegations of embezzlement. In a press release, the city said the employee was fired on September 24 based on this interview and communication with the city administration.
Police Chief Mike Bailey said the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case. Given the nature of the case and the people involved, he said the decision was made to have the case handled by an agency outside of La Paz County.
Search warrants were executed at the town hall and at Wedemeyer’s home on October 21. The next day, October 22, Parker City Council put her on indefinite paid administrative leave. City Clerk Amy Putnam was appointed Acting City Manager on November 2.
Wedemeyer’s attorney, Ashley Adams, asked if there were sufficient probable grounds to search Wedemeyer’s home. In a letter to the Pioneer, she said Wedemeyer received a text message from the employee, whom she identified as Jennifer Alcaida. The employee admitted to taking money from the city. The letter says Wedemeyer contacted town lawyers, who advised him to collect the town’s bank statements to determine if there were any overdue checks.
Wedemeyer was working from home because she had tested positive for the coronavirus on September 18.
That evening, according to Adams, Wedemeyer went to town hall after hours so she could maintain her quarantine and social distancing. Parker’s Police Chief Mike Bailey and Planning and Zoning Administrator Nora Yackley and Wedemeyer’s daughter Hailey were also in attendance at town hall. Wedemeyer searched her desk for bank statements and found some of them were missing.
Bailey confirmed he was with Wedemeyer in his office on the evening of September 23. However, he didn’t look for any of the bank statements himself.
According to Adams’ letter, someone reported seeing Wedemeyer picking up boxes from administrative offices at night, which resulted in the search warrant for his home. She said these were personal mail-order items that had accumulated because Wedemeyer was away from her office.
As of the end of the year, no arrests had been made and no charges had been laid in this case. Tania Pavlak of the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office said financial investigations are taking time. She said most of the warrants issued in this case were for bank statements and other financial documents.
âFinancial investigations take time to gather evidence, in order to prove wrongdoing, before arresting suspects,â Pavlak said.