Court Docs: Ex-Kern Co. Fair maintenance supervisor pocketed cash from illegally recycled scrap metal

As part of his job duties, Kern County Fair maintenance supervisor William Hebert Jr. was responsible for clearing scrap material from the fairgrounds.

Hebert, 65, completed that task, removing scrap metal and surplus copper wire.

But instead of disposing of it, Hebert illegally recycled almost 24 tons of metal over a two-year period for a personal profit of $6,156.76, according to newly released court documents.

A witness told a District Attorney’s office investigator Hebert used a personal business name to recycle materials so he could immediately get a cash payment – and to prevent a check from being mailed to the Kern County Fair.

“Early recycling records show transactions under ‘Kern County Fair Grounds’ before the personal business name of Hebert began to appear,” the court filings say.

Prosecutors in August charged Hebert with three counts of grand theft. The next hearing in the case is set for February.

He is no longer the maintenance supervisor.

Witnesses said maintenance employees worked “countless side jobs” during their employment at the direction of Hebert, the filings say, and were mostly paid in cash.

“The extent of illegal timecard entries and off-site work was vast according to statements,” the filings say. “Maintenance employees spent many days throughout a work week off-site.”

Additionally, Hebert took home a work vehicle at night, given permission to do so on a limited basis, according to the filings. The practice ended once the board learned the state didn’t approve of it.

Hebert reimbursed the association $1,605.57 for using the state vehicle, but the auditor’s report says, “Based on our findings that the maintenance manager used the state vehicle nearly every day as if it were his personal vehicle and that he was dishonest about the frequency of such usage, $1,606 likely represents only a fraction of the cost of his misuse.”

An investigation into the 15th District Agriculture Association, more commonly known as the Kern County Fair, began after a 2019 California State Audit reported misuse of state resources and law violations.

Prosecutors said the state auditor refused to provide specific details, saying they were exempt under the state’s Whistleblower Protection Act.

But two witnesses in the case identified themselves to the District Attorney’s office and spoke about the alleged misconduct.

The District Attorney’s office said in August charges would not be filed regarding Fair board members’ dinners that an audit found exceeded the state reimbursement rate. The investigation found the board members relied on advice from a deputy attorney general and believed they could budget a set amount for meals paid with public funds while traveling on Fair business.

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Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.