The patron saint of…government?
June 16, 2011
Los Angeles County’s top auditor, Wendy Watanabe, thought it had to be a joke or a scheme. At a time when government has come under the public lash, who would mail a $10,000 cashier’s check to the County of Los Angeles—especially someone in Washington State?
And who, in an accompanying note, would write something like this?: “In this time of economic difficulties, governments need all the help they can get. Please put this anonymous check to good use. God bless you.”
Given such unusual circumstances, Watanabe and her staff figured that the check might be counterfeit; the office has had some experience with that kind of thing in the past. But then, remarkably, it cleared the bank.
“We were elated that there would be such a good person out there,” said Watanabe. “Most of the time we get attacked for overspending. For someone to actually donate to the government, it’s just unheard of.”
“Why this person picked L.A. County, we have not a clue,” she added. “Maybe they’ve sent $10,000 to every government agency out there.”
For now, because of bank confidentiality rules, there’s no way to know much beyond the basics. The check was mailed directly to the Auditor-Controller’s Office. It was purchased at Banner Bank on May 2 and lists a toll free number in Walla Walla, Wash. A bank representative, contacted by a writer for Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s website, would reveal only that the transaction occurred at a branch in the town of Bellingham, about 90 miles north of Seattle. The branch employee who issued the check did not return several phone calls.
Every year, the county receives thousands of dollars in donations of various sorts, some of which are bequeathed in wills. For the most part, however, the recipients are specified, Watanabe says, with the lion’s share of money going to departments that deal with young people, such as children’s services and probation.
“Very rarely,” she says, “do we get a donation to a bunch of accountants and auditors. It’s a good feeling that they trust us.”
Unless the Board of Supervisors directs otherwise, Watanabe says, the money will be deposited in the county’s general fund.