WAPATO, Wash. — Former Wapato Mayor Juan Orozco illegally arranged for himself to be hired as city administrator, Yakima County sheriff’s detectives said in a court document.
Orozco also misappropriated $100 that was donated for the city’s annual Harvest Festival last year while city administrator, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed in Yakima County Superior Court.
Orozco was arrested Tuesday afternoon on suspicion of official misconduct and misappropriating and falsifying accounts by a public officer. He is expected to appear in court Wednesday afternoon.
Elected mayor in 2017, Orozco resigned Aug. 31, 2018, and his successor, Dora Alvarez-Roa, immediately appointed him to the newly created administrator’s position, with a salary of $95,000.
Sheriff’s detectives allege that Orozco arranged the appointment for his own personal benefit, which constitutes official misconduct.
On Oct. 4, 2018, a local business owner came in to Wapato City Hall to donate $100 toward the Harvest Festival, the affidavit said. Instead of entering the donation into the city’s accounting system, Orozco directed then-City Clerk Cindy Goodin to instead type up a receipt for the donor, stating that the money was going to the festival, the affidavit said.
However, Goodin said Orozco took the cash, saying he was going to give it to then-Clerk/Treasurer Robin Cordova to reimburse her for money she spent on the festival, the affidavit said.
Goodin said she was responsible for the festival that year, and was not aware of Cordova spending any money on the festival, the affidavit said. Also, Orozco’s actions went against the city’s accounting procedures, the affidavit said.
When contacted by detectives, Cordova said she never spent her own money on the festival, and that Orozco never gave her any money, the affidavit said.
Cordova and Goodin were subsequently fired by the city and are currently suing the city for wrongful termination, intimidation and ongoing harassment.
Washington state auditors found no record of cash deposits being made to any city bank accounts or recorded in the city’s accounting systems, according to the affidavit.
Orozco resigned in July and agreed to waive any severance as part of an agreement with the state Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the city, alleging Orozco’s “scheme” to be appointed administrator violated the code of ethics for municipal employees and the Open and Public Meetings Act.
The city has since settled that lawsuit.