Loopholes: how parking theft could happen here

Drew Sheets, News Editor

In the wake of embezzlement and grand theft allegations against a longtime friend and colleague, SRJC community members and SRPD detectives are still piecing together how Sgt. Jeffrey Holzworth could have looted the district’s parking pay system.

According to Vice President of Business Services, Doug Roberts, there are more than 40 daily permit pay stations and at least 60 parking meters in the district, all of which Holzworth maintained, serviced and regulated for at least 10 years. “When it came to those machines, Jeff was our expert,” Roberts said.

When Holzworth collected the bags of money, the machine would “spit out” a receipt that showed the date and time the money was collected. “Some of the machines only spit out a receipt on the day it’s collected and it only date stamps on the day it’s collected,” Roberts said.

According to a search warrant affidavit that Santa Rosa Police detectives filed with Sonoma Superior Court, SRJC District Police Chief Matt McCaffrey admitted there was no way to tell if Holzworth turned in all the money he collected from the machines. “If Ofc. Holzworth collected money from five machines in one day, he might only turn in money from three or four of those machines. No one would know that Ofc. Holzworth collected money from additional machines because the machines do not reconcile with a central database. Ofc. Holzworth is equipped with a computer that clears out the accounting memory from each of the parking machines.”

The affidavit states that other department employees often saw Holzworth using this computer to clear out the machines after he collected money from them.

“Chief McCaffrey said that Ofc. Holzworth has the training and the only computer equipment to clear the internal memory from each of those machines. Ofc. Holzworth keeps the computer with him, or locked in his office. None of the other district personnel have access to this computer,” the affidavit states.

Each machine can contain several thousand dollars. One recent parking pay station retrieval netted $1700 on the Petaluma campus, Sgt. Steven Potter told investigators, the affidavit states.

Annual parking revenue totals $1.5 million, including paid permits, daily permits and meters. This figure represents nearly half of the district police’s annual budget. Holzworth typically brought in a mail bin full of bags of money and corresponding receipts to the accounting department, an anonymous source told The Oak Leaf.

“The bag and receipt are taken to accounting. They then do a spot reconciliation as to what’s in the bag and what’s on the receipt,” Roberts said there were not many instances when it didn’t match up.

“When it didn’t match up, money from the machine was higher than the receipt.” The affidavit discusses how Holzworth might have evaded accounting scrutiny.

“Hypothetically, if Ofc. Holzworth collects $1000 from machines 1 through 5 in one day, he might only turn in the money from machines 1, 2, 3, and 4. There is no way for the accounting department to know that funds from machine 5 should have been turned in. Ofc. Holzworth can then clear the memory out of each machine using a computer.”

SRJC’s Accounting Department declined to comment on the process as did Ventek International, the pay station manufacturer.

“We’re talking to the manufacturer and we’re talking to the local rep to get a better understanding of how the machines could work and how they could be manipulated,” Roberts said.

The SRPD is also investigating the accounting process. “We are cooperating with SRPD, doing whatever they are asking us to do,” Roberts said. “They want to go back and compile our receipts. And that’s going to be matching up receipts and deposits. I don’t know if it’s going to show up much.” The farthest they can go back is seven years.

McCaffrey changed the pay station collection process immediately following Holzworth’s arrest.

“We’re changing the collection process,” Roberts said, “making sure all collections are made by two individuals together. That’s the manual fix.”
SRJC Professor Michael Aparicio said,

“Chief McCaffrey’s handling of the case was exceptional. It reassures me that we will get through this.”

District Police Sgt. Steven Potter said, “Chief McCaffrey is the best thing that has happened to this department.” SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong was briefed on the Holzworth situation from the beginning and has launched an internal audit of the accounting process.