Millions missing: Loss of funds triggers legal action against Philip

LA FERIA — Sunny K. Philip stood alone in the corner of La Feria City Hall taking notes as an independent auditor reported to the commission the city was missing $3 million.

The city was looking for funds linked to certificates of obligation that were for street improvements, drainage and building infrastructure.

“Unfortunately we had inherited an unrealistic budget,” said Jaime Sandoval, La Feria city manager.

Philip said he attended the meeting just as everyone else had to find out what was going on.

But the former city manager quickly left the room after the commission voted unanimously to take civil action against him in an effort to find out where the missing funds are, how they were used and who had made the withdrawals.

Philip had been city manager of La Feria since 1994 and was an employee for more than 30 years with the city until he was fired last July.

The independent audit report found the unaccounted funds but had no backup documentation as to who had made multiple withdrawals or what the monies were used for.

Funds were moved from one account to another and withdrawn from the second account that should have been left with a healthy balance of more than $3 million but was negative at times.

The city’s decision to proceed in the civil lawsuit against Philip may take up to two weeks to file in civil in court.

City Attorney Rick Navarro said the city may decide to piggyback this lawsuit against Philip in the case Philip has against the city for severance pay after he was terminated.

Before the commission voted to take legal action against Philip, City Commissioner Eric Hoff said he was lied to and was told money was in the bank account.

Hoff requested recordings of those meetings where he was told that no money was missing should be immediately secured.