State Embezzlement Scandal Affects S.B. Dems

With November’s Santa Barbara City Council election six weeks away, the Democratic Central Committee discovered that its assets were effectively frozen because of an embezzlement scandal involving Kinde Durkee, accountant to the statewide Democratic Party.

Compared to the $5 million Senator Dianne Feinstein may have had stolen, the $13,000 the local Democrats had in Durkee’s care is chump change. But $13,000 buys a lot of yard signs, campaign mailers, and volunteer coordinator time. Party executive Daraka Larimore-Hall has issued an email to alert activists to double down their donations. “It’s a serious bite and that’s a drag,” said Larimore-Hall. “The good news is that the money is out there and we’re confident people will step up.”

Larimore-Hall said the local Democrats hired Durkee upon the recommendation of party machines in other counties. He said he’d been impressed by how cautious the accountant assigned to handle Santa Barbara’s assets had been. But when the FBI arrested Durkee three weeks ago on suspicion of embezzlement, it quickly became clear that Durkee had not maintained separate accounts for the 400 different politicians, candidates, organizations, and clubs whose funds her company oversaw.

Last Friday, Larimore-Hall said he was first notified that First California Bank was placing all the accounts on ice until the matter could be sorted out. That, he said, could take a very long time.

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