The Nevada County Economic Resource executive committee, the body responsible for hiring Jon Blinder as executive director in January, will meet Wednesday to discuss the allegations surrounding the entity’s leader.
Blinder was arrested on Thursday and charged with four felony counts of securities fraud and conspiracy in connection with his role as Chief Operating Officer of Gold Country Lenders, a Grass Valley real estate company, according to a news release issued by California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Phil Lester, the company’s CEO, and Susan Leferte, CFO of Gold Country Lenders, also were arrested and charged with 66 felony counts of elder abuse, securities fraud and conspiracy.
The charges against Blinder surround whether or not he disclosed information to investors regarding the presence of toxic waste on various real estate sites scheduled for development..
The attorney general alleged Blinder “failed to inform investors in Enlibra of the toxic substance issues related to Kenny Ranch, Osborne Hill and South Auburn Street,” according to the arrest declaration. “He further failed to clearly identify ownership of the properties and failed to specifically inform investors that the projects contained within Enlibra were existing GCL projects which were already encumbered and unable to move forward.”
Blinder professed his innocence in a statement to The Union on Friday, a day after his arrest.
“As I am discussing my situation with counsel, I have realized that it is not the appropriate time to discuss this matter,” Blinder wrote. “I will answer all these untrue charges in due time.”
Blinder is set to be arraigned on Oct. 23 in Nevada County Superior Court.
The ERC hired Blinder in January as an independent contractor and pay him $4,000 per month, said ERC President Kimberly Parker.
Blinder was tasked with redefining the scope of the nonprofit’s mission and has done a capable job, said Robert Bergman, a Nevada City council member who also serves on the ERC’s executive committee.
“Jon has done tremendous good for the ERC,” Bergman said. “It was an organization without a clear mission and he has done tremendous work for it.”
Bergman said that Blinder disclosed to him that Gold Country Lenders was under investigation during the ERC’s hiring process in January, but that Bergman “was completely satisfied with the conversations” they had at the time.
“I don’t regret the decision (to hire Blinder) one bit,” he said.
Bergman said that he doesn’t specifically recall if the executive committee discussed the ongoing investigation into Gold Country Lenders, which was reported by The Union in 2010, during the hiring process.
Parker, in an email to The Union, declined to speculate about the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting.
“(Blinder) has done a good job for the ERC since his start in 2012 and it would not be appropriate for me to speculate at this time what may or may not happen,” she wrote.
The ERC was recently awarded a $120,000 contract by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors to manage the county’s effort to attract more tourists to the region.
Supervisor Ted Owens issued a statement on Friday saying supervisors “are confident that the ERC board will take the appropriate steps in dealing with this issue.”
The nonprofit also receives funding from Grass Valley and Nevada City.
Many public officials, including Bergman, Nevada County Supervisor Ed Scofield, Assistant County Executive Alison Lehman, Grass Valley City Councilwoman Lisa Swarthout and Grass Valley City Manager Dan Miller, have seats on the executive committee.
The remaining seats are occupied by Executive Dean of Sierra College Stephanie Ortiz, Tim Corkins of Z.A.P. Manufacturing and Dale Creighton of SCO Planning & Engineering.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4239.
“Jon has done tremendous good for the ERC. It was an organization without a clear mission, and he has done tremendous work for it.”
— Robert Bergman,
member of ERC’s executive committee