I really do love the internet.Ã‚Â If you spend enough time, you can find stuff that clears away the smoke some people throw up to cover their tracks.Ã‚Â This is the case for Orange County Treasurer/Tax CollectorÃ‚Â Chriss Street.
On March 17, 2006 Martin Wisckol of the OCRegisterÃ‚Â wrote a piece in Total Buzz The Street Affair about the allegations that had been made about Chriss Street and his tenure as the bankruptcy trustee for Freuhauf.Ã‚Â Martin prefaced his story with this:
Treasurer candidate Chriss Street was the court-appointed trustee who oversaw the bankruptcy reorganization and liquidation of Freuhauf Trailer Corp. from 1996 to 2005. Among the dozens of allegations made a Street in a bankruptcy court document filed this week:
One of the areas covered by Martin was:
–Street’s wife, Victoria, a former banker, was on the payroll and took all-expense paid trips to Hawaii, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Mexico. Street said the trips related to Fruehauf’s Mexican operation or were company retreats.
The company was in bankruptcy, why would the trustee need to attend company retreats?Ã‚Â For that matter, why were such things even allowed?Ã‚Â This does however give a more clear picture ofÃ‚Â Street and his judgement.
But there’s more…
Wisckol asked about the purchase of a company called Dorsey Trailers Inc. while he was trustee.
–The purchase of Dorsey Trailer was another failed side venture using trust money. Street said the acquisition was done by the Freuhauf pension plan, and he had no hand in the decision.
Well, we did a little fact checking, with the help of one of our readers, and we found this little tidbit “Back in business” regarding the purchase. The story was published in an industry publication Trailer Body Builders on January 1, 2002.Ã‚Â In the above quote fromÃ‚Â Street he claims to have had no hand in the purchase of Dorsey Trailer.Ã‚Â Yet in the Trailer Body Builders article it certainly looks to me like Street was the mastermind behind the whole deal.
The story leads off with:
WHEN SOME PEOPLE LOOKED at the old Dorsey Trailers Inc, they saw what one person described as Ã¢â‚¬Å“a failed old factory located in a boring town far from major trailer markets.Ã¢â‚¬Â
But not Chriss Street. Like the old story about the optimistic boy who gleefully dug through a room of horse manure because he was convinced a pony was in there somewhere, Street looked on the bright side. Where some only saw a mess, he saw good things beneath the surface. Enough good things and potential to invest millions in the bankrupt trailer manufacturer. But there is one major difference between Street and the little boy Ã¢â‚¬â€ Street has already found a pony.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was sobering to the professionals involved with Dorsey that there was no buyer,Ã¢â‚¬Â Street says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The company had $20 million in assets, but no one cared. On the other hand, I was wildly interested in this plant.Ã¢â‚¬Â
So does this sound to you like Street had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PURCHASE?
Well the article goes on to describe in some detail how Street was involved.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The building is a very long rectangle, which makes it well suited for trailer production,Ã¢â‚¬Â Street says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Trailer manufacturers don’t like it when the production line turns. This plant has zero turns. And it’s structured so that you can make anything in it. I saw the factory as having the equipment and flexibility that would enable us to do extremely well. Most of the plants I see these days are inflexible operations that produce a commodity product.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The article continues…Street is confident that his company can turn Dorsey around. Part of that confidence is based on his experience with Fruehauf de Mexico.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was a company with a lot of overhead,Ã¢â‚¬Â he says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Lots of suits, coats, and ties. We had to change that. We had to change the ratio of support people to production people.Ã¢â‚¬Â
I’ve got just one question, do we really want to trust a guy to manage $7 billion in taxpayer assets when he cannot even remember his clearly passionate involvement in the purchase and management of Dorsey Trailers five years earlier?
UPDATE: (8/11/07 – 12:15 pm)
In Martin’s article he mentions the following complaint:
–One of the trust’s entities made a $5,000 donation to the Newport Water Polo Foundation. Street defended the donation as supporting the Olympic water polo team and it was good for business, with advertising on tournament programs and a place to take clients.
But that statement is clearly different from what he wrote in his Bio and Ballot Statement posted on his Treasurer Campaign website.Ã‚Â
A native Californian, Chriss Street is a Registered Investment Advisor who received his Bachelors in Economics from the UC Irvine and is a graduate of the Stanford Business School. He is married with three children and lives in Newport Beach. Chriss Street is a past president of the Silver Circle Club of the Orange County Republican Party, the founder of the non-profit international organization Books for Freedom, and raised over $100,000 for the Corona del Mar Water Polo Foundation. Chriss Street will continue the tradition of keeping our money safe and secure. Please join John Moorlach and other leaders and taxpayers in supporting CHRISS STREET FOR ORANGE COUNTY TREASURER-TAX COLLECTOR.
It appears to me that Street simply used his position to raise money for a favored charity and then used the total of funds he raised to demonstrate his community service and credentials for his treasurer campaign.Ã‚Â That little voice in my head is telling me that the contribution had far more to do with elevating Street’s profile and far less to do with business needs.