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Chino Valley fire board member accused of taking payment for meetings he didn’t attend

The ongoing feud between members of the Chino Valley Independent Fire District board has escalated to allegations of criminal wrongdoing.

Board member Winn Williams, who was censured for the second time by fellow board members in June, has accused fellow board member Mike Kreeger of billing the fire district for attending meetings he didn’t attend.

According to Williams and his son Kyle, Kreeger fraudulently claimed credit for attending 13 meetings of the Chino Valley Unified School District board, between Aug. 16, 2018, and March 21, 2019. He also allegedly did not attend the San Bernardino International Airport Authority board meetings in January, February, April and May. Kreeger was one of the fire board’s chosen liaisons to each of the boards.

Kreeger billed the fire district for $157.50 for each of the meetings, for a total of $2,047.50.

The Williams family does not dispute that Kreeger attended the board meetings of other agencies. In April, Kreeger’s invoice to the fire district, obtained by Kyle Williams through the use of the California Public Records Act, also list that he attended meetings of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and Chino Hills City Council. Kreeger billed the fire district $315 for attending the Board of Supervisors meeting. His invoice notes that he should not be paid for the council meeting, however, since board members can be paid for attending only one meeting per day.

In early May, Kyle Williams sent the allegations to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, which investigates elected officials.

The allegations against Kreeger hinge on semantics.

“What, in your opinion, constitutes attendance at a meeting?” Chino Valley fire board President John DeMonaco asked Williams at a board meeting Wednesday, July 10.

“Physically being at the meeting,” Winn Williams said.

“For how long?” DeMonaco said.

“At least a half hour,” Williams said.

It’s something that the fire district’s bylaws don’t address.

“There’s nothing that specifies length of time or anything else that defines ‘attending a meeting,’” Fire Chief Tim Shackelford said Thursday.

Kreeger made a blanket denial on Wednesday, without going into specifics.

“I am extremely disturbed, confused, frustrated and sad,” he said. “I have not broken California law in any way.”

Kreeger said Winn Williams was using the allegations to deflect from his own problems with the board. Williams has been censured for failing to follow rules the board established to address concerns about unprofessional conduct.

“Due to the nature of the allegations, and considering the source, I will have no further comments on this,” Kreeger said.

On Thursday, he said Williams was using an old definition of meeting attendance.

“New technology is not addressed, via webcam or live-streaming,” Kreeger said. The district’s bylaws are “vague for a reason. I have not broken the law or broken board policy at any time.”

Other board members declined to discuss the matter Wednesday, saying they would wait for the Public Integrity Unit to weigh in, if it ever does.

The tension on the board is already having economic consequences. Attending Wednesday’s meeting required going through a metal detector screening, with two security guards standing by. A San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy was also present inside the meeting. The screening was in response to firefighters and staff reportedly feeling threatened by board member Williams’ behavior.

The guards and security screening cost between $700 and $1,000 per meeting, Shackelford said Thursday.

At the end of the meeting Wednesday, Williams expressed sorrow at how his relationship with other board members had deteriorated, but stopped short of apologizing for his past behavior or actions.

“I’m sorry that things have gone the way that they have gone,” he said. “If they want things to change, it’s their part that has to change.”

But the situation isn’t likely to get better any time soon. As Wednesday’s meeting wrapped up, Williams put his hand on DeMonaco’s shoulder.

“Don’t touch me, don’t touch me,” DeMonaco said. “You touch me again and that’s assault.”

The next meeting of the Chino Valley fire district board is at 6 p.m. Aug. 14 at district headquarters, 14011 City Center Drive in Chino Hills.

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