February 18, 2014

VA terminates contract with ex-Merced County employee

The Department of Veterans Affairs has terminated its contract with Anthony J. Thompson, a Merced County ex-employee who was arrested last week on suspicion of sexual bribery.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has terminated its contract with Anthony J. Thompson, a Merced County ex-employee who was arrested last week on suspicion of sexual bribery.

Sheryl Grubb, public affairs chief with VA Central California, confirmed Tuesday that Thompson’s contract has been canceled and the agency will no longer place homeless veterans inside his two homes.

Grubb said the contract was terminated pending the outcome of the case, and for the safety and welfare of the veterans. “Upon review, we terminated the contract as of today,” Grubb said Tuesday. “Obviously, we can’t say anything about the allegations, but we have no evidence of him doing anything wrong in terms of the VA contract.”

The 53-year-old operated two homes providing transitional housing to homeless veterans for a maximum of 120 days. Thompson was paid $55 per night for each veteran, Grubb said.

Thompson, a collections supervisor for the Department of Revenue and Reimbursement, was arrested last Tuesday on suspicion of bribery after a three-week investigation by the Merced County Sheriff’s Department.

Before the contract’s termination, eight veterans were housed inside Thompson’s two homes, one at 2713 Lexington Ave. in Merced and the other at 3545 W. Michigan Ave. in Fresno. Grubb said it’s unknown how many years Thompson operated the homes, but the contract was last renewed in October 2013.

The news of Thompson losing the VA contract came as no surprise to 61-year-old Jim Dwyer.

The Marine veteran lived in Thompson’s Merced home for about six weeks until late last week. “When they (VA counselors) came here last night, they were real nervous,” Dwyer said on Friday. “They wanted us to leave because their contract with him was canceled as of midnight.”

VA officials relocated the other veterans, but Dwyer stayed in Merced for an appointment with a doctor. By Monday, however, Dwyer was told to move out of the Merced home.

“We got everything out of there and left,” he said.

Thompson’s arrest last week came on the heels of an internal investigation launched late last year by Merced County into complaints of harassment and discrimination. The county hired Susan Hatmaker of Fresno-based Sutton Hatmaker Law Corp. to conduct the investigation.

Hatmaker was paid $30,703.20 for her work on the investigation.

A public records request by the Merced Sun-Star for a copy of the investigation was denied by county counsel Jan. 31, citing “personnel, medical, or similar files,” saying the disclosure would “constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Hatmaker’s investigation of Thompson closed Nov. 13, and the county issued a letter Dec. 3, saying there was “insufficient evidence” that Thompson engaged in discrimination or harassment, based on race or any other protected characteristic.

Multiple county employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their jobs, said Thompson was offered a retirement package Friday. County officials confirmed Thompson is no longer a county employee, but would not say whether he’s been offered retirement.

Merced County detectives believe Thompson, who’s worked for the county since 1987, promised to manipulate the amount of money one woman’s son owed the county in exchange for “sexual favors” and “dates.”

Thompson is scheduled to appear in Merced County Superior Court on March 11 for his arraignment hearing.

Deputies are asking anyone with information about the case to contact Detective Aaron Rosenberg at the Merced County Sheriff’s Department at (209) 385-7444.

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