Kern County Library Director Diane Duquette has been hunting for a new job across California for more than two years on Kern County work time, using her county-owned Ford Explorer and a county-funded gas card to facilitate the effort, according to new records obtained by The Californian.

And Duquette, on three occasions, got a city to pay for her traveling expenses even after Kern County taxpayers had subsidized the trip.

Duquette -- according to her county calendars and gas records plus documents obtained from other government agencies -- used her vehicle to interview in at least three jurisdictions outside of Kern County: the cities of Chula Vista and Arcadia and Contra Costa County.

Kern County Deputy Library Director Sherry Gomez said Wednesday that Duquette was not in the office and she was not certain when she would return.

When contacted at a recent meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, during which she was scheduled for an employment evaluation, Duquette refused to comment on her situation. She did not return subsequent calls seeking comment on the new records.

The new revelations come a week after The Californian first wrote about Duquette's suspicious patterns of travel in her taxpayer-funded county car, which was only supposed to be used for work purposes.

CHULA VISTA

In August 2009, Duquette twice interviewed for the top library job in the city of Chula Vista, near San Diego.

Kern County gas card records show she drove her county-owned Ford Explorer to both interviews on Aug. 4 and Aug. 19 and used her county-funded gas card to fuel the vehicle.

On Aug. 4, the estimated seven-hour round trip, and the interview in Chula Vista, were all conducted on Duquette's Kern County work time.

She only claimed a vacation day to make the Aug. 19 trip, according to County Administrative Officer John Nilon.

On her calender, Duquette classified both 430-mile round trips as travel to "tour" libraries.

When she drove to Chula Vista for the second job interview on Aug. 19, 2009, Duquette claimed $236.84 in travel reimbursement from the city for her trip, requisition forms and emails released by Chula Vista officials show.

According to Kern's county procedures manual, an administrative staffer like Duquette who isn't allowed to claim overtime can take part of a single work day off without using vacation or sick time, or losing pay.

But county gas card records indicate that, on both days, Duquette spent about 12 hours on the road to Chula Vista or in interviews. On both Aug. 4 and Aug. 19, Duquette gassed up at Don's Liquor Market and Deli in Frazier Park at about 9:30 a.m. before driving south. She fueled up at Don's again at around 10 p.m., on both days, after having traveled roughly 400 miles.

"It is no wonder I slept 10 hours when I returned home around 11 p.m. Wednesday night!" Duquette wrote in the email to Chula Vista officials in which she requested reimbursement for the Aug. 19 trip.

The Kern County District Attorney's office reviewed the information to see if Duquette committed embezzlement or violated any other law by taking two payments for her travel.

"According to what we were presented, there was insufficient evidence to file any criminal charges," said Supervising Deputy District Attorney Barry Klein.

But while Duquette does not face criminal charges, she is apparently on leave and in hot water with her bosses on the Kern County Board of Supervisors. Supervisors have declined to comment on the situation as it is a personnel matter and County Counsel Theresa Goldner has declined to say whether Duquette is on leave for the same reason.

SEARCHING

Duquette was unsuccessful in Chula Vista but her work calendars show she continued to hunt for other positions.

In late 2010 she got a shot in Contra Costa County.

On Oct. 28 and Nov. 10, Duquette made trips in the Ford Explorer to Contra Costa County to interview for the position of Contra Costa County Director of Library Services, according to records received from Contra Costa officials. She used her Kern County gas card to fund at least a portion of both trips, fueling up once before her Oct. 28 and Nov. 10 trips and once while on the road to her Nov. 10 meeting with Contra Costa County Administrative Officer David Twa.

For each of the two trips Duquette was paid $324 in milage by Contra Costa County for the 648 mile round trip, according to copies of her requests for reimbursements and Contra Costa County invoices, despite the fact that Kern County taxpayers had already paid for her gas and owned the car she was driving.

In February 2011, a new Contra Costa County librarian was named. It wasn't Duquette.

So, county gas records show, at 10:24 p.m. on May 16 Duquette filled up her Ford Explorer at Don's Liquor Mart, charging $58.08 to her county gas card. The next morning she drove to Arcadia, just east of Pasadena, for an interview for the position of director of library and museum services.

Though Duquette's calendar for May 17 indicates that she is "off today," she did not use a day of vacation to make the trip, Nilon said. And records obtained from Arcadia show she signed in as a "candidate" for a 9:30 a.m. interview.

Lisa Mussenden, chief deputy city clerk for Arcadia, said the city does not reimburse for travel or per diem expenses incurred by job applicants.

RAMBLING

Duquette has lived a unique working life as the head of the Kern County Library Department, according to nearly three years of calendar entries and the GPS records generated after county officials placed a tracking device on her car in the middle of an ongoing investigation into her use of public equipment and resources.

Insulated by her 24 years as library director and isolated from the system she leads by the 60-mile distance between her home in Pine Mountain Club and her offices at Beale Memorial Library in Bakersfield, Duquette has set her own hours, managed through email during marathon midnight and weekend correspondence sessions and, in return, taken days off in the middle of the week.

Much of her work time in the past year or so has been spent on the road, courting artists and artisans, hand-picking art pieces, getting them framed and selecting furnishings for the lavish $6.3 million Frazier Park Library that opened just minutes from her home on Oct. 22.

But the records also show how Duquette responded when her behavior became the topic of a critical audit of her department.

In the nine working days between Thursday, Sept. 22, and Tuesday, Oct. 4, GPS records show, Duquette stopped in at her office at Beale Memorial Library a total of three times and spent about 13.5 hours there.

In the same nine days, she visited the nearly finished Frazier Park library twice for a total of just more than four hours.

During that same time period, Duquette visited a number of other locations repeatedly while on work time.

In addition to the combined two hours and four minutes she spent at Don Mason Photography, the Ice House Framing gallery and Bed Bath & Beyond -- all places Duquette lists as vendors for the Frazier Park Library in her calendar -- she spent more than six hours of work time at the Pine Mountain Club community center during those two weeks.

She also spent five hours, 42 minutes at Valley Plaza and one hour and 39 minutes at Costco.

On the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 28 -- after two days spent at her home in Pine Mountain Club -- calendar and GPS records show Duquette spent three hours and 11 minutes at the PMC club house from around 8:30 to 11:40 a.m. playing golf with a couple of friends.

Also that week, she scheduled time to submit application documents for an open job as the library director for Nevada County.

And that Thursday and Friday, Sept. 29 and 30, Duquette went shopping in Bakersfield, stopping at various vendors for the Frazier Park Library, but also spending hours shopping at Valley Plaza -- four hours, nine minutes on Thursday and 49 minutes on Friday.

Kern County General Services Director Jeff Frapwell said he wasn't aware of any business in Valley Plaza that was a vendor for the library department.

Assistant County Administrative Officer Elissa Ladd said Duquette used a county purchasing card to buy items at Macy's, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and JC Penney on those two days. 

Reciepts for the purchases show Duquette purchased cooking equipment and kitchen furnishings — including a $200 turkey roaster — that were ostensibly for the two kitchens in the new Frazier Park Library.

She also purchased copious numbers of bathroom mats from JC Penny, Macy's and Bed Bath & Beyond on Sept. 29. The next day, after a three hour stop at the Frazier Park Library, gps records show Duquette returned to Bakersfield.

The mats are used by library staff as seating for children during special events, Ladd said.

Reciept records show Duquette returned all the bathroom mats she had purchased from Macys, returned some of the mats she had purchased at JC Penny's and Bed Bath and Beyond then purchased more mats from those two retailers.

Nilon, the county administrative officer, said Duquette did not take vacation between Sept. 26 and Sept. 30.

Some of how Duquette spent her time that week might have been appropriately designated as work time, Nilon wrote in an email.

"If Diane was shopping for items related to work such as in preparation for the Frazier Park Library grand opening and attending a business-related meeting such as Rotary, those could be considered appropriate," he said. "Theoretically, if she was doing work related emails from home, she was 'at work.'"

But time during the work day spent for non-work purposes might not be so acceptable.

"If she was not performing work related duties (job applications and golf), she should take time off," Nilon stated.

AUDIT

On Oct. 4 the Kern County Board of Supervisors reviewed an audit of the Kern County Library Department that criticized, among a number of other department problems, Duquette's failure to properly account for the use of her county-owned vehicle.

Duquette wasn't at that 9 a.m. meeting where the audit was aired. She had left her home in Pine Mountain Club at 8:44 a.m. for the 60-mile drive to Bakersfield and when the hearing on the audit started at around 9:20 a.m. -- GPS records show -- Duquette had just turned from Frazier Mountain Park Road onto southbound Interstate 5 on her way to pick up a frame for a bear poster for the Frazier Park Library.

Calendar and GPS records don't show that the audit hearing had much impact on Duquette's habits.

The next morning, on Oct. 5, she left her home just before 10 a.m. and drove to a two-hour, 15-minute appointment for a "haircut and weave" before returning home to Pine Mountain Club for the rest of the work day.

Duquette's work days until Tuesday, Oct. 11, had similar patterns -- some time at libraries in Bakersfield, Arvin and Frazier Park mixed in with trips to events like the "History of Bakersfield Country Club" at the east Bakersfield golf resort and long stretches of time at her home.

But on Oct. 11, GPS records show, Duquette spent four hours at the Kern County Administrative Center. Her calendar showed she was scheduled for a closed-session meeting with Kern County Board of Supervisors following its 45-minute public meeting.

After that meeting, Duquette began working more traditional hours, showing up at the Frazier Park Library for more than eight hours in each of the next two days and, on Friday, Oct. 14, spending nine hours, 36 minutes at Beale Memorial Library.

The pattern continued through the opening of the Frazier Park Library on Oct. 22.

Records show that when she traveled to Nevada County on Oct. 26 to interview for a library job there, Duquette left her county-owned Ford Explorer in Pine Mountain Club and took the day off as vacation.

She turned the vehicle in for good on Oct. 31. Oct. 31

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.