Former La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. board chair Cindy Greatrex has been accused of stealing more than $67,000 from Rec Center funds, a charge she adamantly denies. She is to appear in Superior Criminal Court in San Diego on Friday, Sept. 15, where her lawyer is confident the charges of grand theft by employee, filed July 5, will be dismissed.
If convicted, the penalty for grand theft is based on several factors and determined by legal officials. It could include thousands of dollars in fines and/or jail time.
Greatrex is a former chair of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA), but vacated her board seat after missing three meetings to attend to her dying mother. At the Sept. 7 special election to fill the seat, Greatrex ran and was elected to a new term. She was present at the onset of that meeting.
Greatrex was also chair of La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. until spring 2017, when allegations of misuse of funds were raised. At that time, Greatrex stepped down as chair, citing conflict with other board members. La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. is in the midst of a playground renovation, and is currently discussing layout concepts and will soon begin fundraising.
According to court documents, over the span of about a year, “Greatrex stole money belonging to La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. … She made out company checks made payable to herself or cash, and these checks were cashed by her through (bank) accounts.” The loss total was $67,935.86. “These checks contained just her signature; bypassing board policy of having two authorizing signatures,” the document continues.
The declaration in support of an arrest warrant and warrant, deposed by San Diego Peace Officer Bernie Piceno, states that Piceno was instructed to speak with then La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. vice-president (now acting president) Mary Coakley Munk to investigate the alleged embezzlement. During such interview, Coakley Munk provided Piceno “various documents (including) … spreadsheet itemizing stolen funds, copies of unauthorized checks, copies of invoices, copies of e-mails, and letters to and from Greatrex,” among other items.
Piceno’s deposition goes on to state, “During the course of my duties, I have learned the following information, based upon having read the reports of or talked with the named victim and witnesses, or by having read reports of or talked with other officers and investigators, who have spoken with the named victim and witnesses.”
In the course of his research, Piceno said Greatrex’s personal accounts showed “21 unauthorized La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. checks being deposited into her accounts, and numerous cash deposits being made into her accounts.”
An appearance warrant and bail were set in July for Greatrex to respond to the charges against her.
“In my case this makes sense, I travel two weeks of the month for work, so they wanted to make sure I showed up, which of course I did,” she said, adding that bail in these circumstances is “very normal.”
When asked about the theft allegations, Coakley Munk told La Jolla Light neither she nor other members of the Parks & Recreation, Inc. board, could comment on the situation, and more information would be made available at the preliminary hearing, Sept. 15.
Greatrex maintains her innocence and said the funds in question were used to purchase grant writing for the Rec Center and other in-house items.
“There are no missing funds,” Greatrex told La Jolla Light. “The checks were made payable to me because they were reimbursements for the grant-writing fees (I paid) over a long period of time.” She added that the statement given that two signatures are required to cash the checks is inaccurate.
A Light review of the LJP&R, Inc. bylaws found no reference to the number of signatures required on checks cashed.
Her attorney Paul Neuharth reports he had recently submitted receipts to the District Attorney’s office showing where and how the funds in question were spent, which he considers to be “exonerating evidence.” He said the evidence would be heard at the Sept. 15 preliminary hearing.
Greatrex said she questions the timing of when these charges were brought to light, given its correlation to elections at the LJCPA board level, of which she is part.
The original accusations arose around the time LJCPA held its annual election, where Greatrex was up for re-election. She was elected to another term, but was unable to continue as a trustee due to personal absences.
The most recent report on the charges became public before the LJCPA special election, for which Greatrex was again up for election. LJCPA makes recommendations to the San Diego City Council, Planning Commission and other agencies on land-use matters.
“I believe this is about besmirching my name and removing me from La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. and La Jolla Community Planning Association boards,” Greatrex said. She again pointed to a longstanding conflict with a current Park & Recreation, Inc. board member, who she believes filed the charges.
Greatrex is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 15 for a preliminary hearing, at which time both parties will have a chance to state their cases.