Independent Cities Association (ICA) announced yesterday that a formal charge of embezzlement has been filed against former West Hollywood Public Facilities Commissioner, Tai Sunnanon, by the LA County District Attorney’s office.
ICA is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit and public benefit corporation where Sunnanon served as the Executive Director from August 2018 until September 2019, when he resigned. President-Elect and Council member for Redondo Beach, Nils Nehrenheim, took Sunnanon’s position as treasurer in October of 2019. He alleges that audits of all finances, accounts, and valuables showed irregularities with nearly $50,000 embezzled from an ICA account through online transfers.
“My initial audit of our yearly financial activities when I came into the Treasurer’s position quickly pointed to embezzlement,” said Nehrenheim. “As a consummate public servant, I will protect the organization and public finances from which we derive our primary revenues from. I couldn’t be happier about the charges being filed and further seeking restitution of all funds to be paid back.”
The alleged embezzlement took place between March 5 and Nov. 21, 2019. Sunnanon oversaw the payment processing system and is being accused of redirecting transactions to his personal JPMorgan Chase bank account multiple times. ICA executives asked Sunnanon to reimburse the group for the misappropriated funds in 2019 and 2020, but Sunnanon’s lawyer said his client was innocent. Funds were not reimbursed and a Sheriff’s report was filed, which has led to the current charges.
“This is a serious violation of trust by Mr. Sunnanon, which the board of directors at the time and subsequent boards have fully pursued to bring Mr. Sunnanon to justice and get full restitution,” reads a statement by ICA.
“We thank the District Attorney’s Office, the Sheriff’s office, and our Executive Board for the due diligence, teamwork, and detailed investigation and record handling,” said ICA President and council member for Culver City, Göran Eriksson. “Transparency is first and foremost in our policies and actions in our organization. Since we found this misappropriation, we have been working diligently to document and follow up on this issue.”
“We all worked hand in hand to make sure that we would get to this point,” said treasurer and council member for Hermosa Beach, Stacey Armato. “As elected leaders, we become the fiduciary managers of public funds, and in managing those funds, we become the primary guardians. Protecting Public money and non-profit finances are of the utmost importance to protect. The public trusted us with their votes, we must reciprocate that trust in every way back.
Sunnanon’s term on the West Hollywood Public Facilities Commission expired on Feb. 28, 2021, along with all other city commissioners and advisory board members as part of the appointment process every two years.
ICA is made up of 41 member cities in the Southern California area. The organization focuses on public safety, education, legislative advocacy, intergovernmental relationships, and other major issues that transcend the boundaries of its member cities. ICA holds Annual Seminars bringing together city council members, other city officials, and business partners for the purpose of collaboration, networking, and knowledge exchange.