Unnoticed or Ignored 'Tracks'

In reports of the embezzlement of $1.8 million from the city of Newport Beach by Robert J. Dixon, I have read opinions of him voiced by city officials, psychologists and lawyers ("Ex-Newport Official Admits Embezzlement," April 22). This is the opinion of a citizen-taxpayer.

He is a smart, clever, convincing, and for 17 years, a highly successful career criminal. In 1972 he was convicted of embezzling $83,000 from Georgetown University. He was hired two years later by City Manager Robert L. Wynn, whom Dixon told of his criminal conviction. Working his way up over 17 years, he was given ever-increasing responsibility and ever-decreasing oversight and control. He ended up being completely trusted--everyone's generous friend and front-runner to succeed the retiring city manager, Robert Wynn, who had hired him 17 years before.

He lived the high life openly. Traveling extensively to Europe, Tahiti and New York for shows and ballet, staying in $400-a-night hotel rooms. He invested in real estate and artworks and bought expensive cars and jewelry. Through all of this lavish spending, nobody seemed to wonder where all this money came from.

We have heard mostly self-pity from our officials--of their grief at the loss of a friend, their shock and dismay at his betrayal of them, disbelief that such a fine and trusted person could do such a thing. Well, he is a career con man, folks. He was just doing his job. You, however, were not doing yours.

Robert Dixon's lawyer, Stephan DeSales, made a statement that (city officials) should think about. After talking of Dixon's "compulsive behavior," he said his client had really wanted to be caught and was relieved when he was. Then he said that the embezzlement scheme was so obvious "it was like an elephant with muddy feet walking across a white rug."

Now, if that is true, Newport Beach elected officials, the city manager, fellow employees and auditors were so derelict and inept that they didn't notice a muddy elephant stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars for years. If it isn't true, they were completely outwitted, beguiled, enchanted and lulled by the wiles of a clever embezzler who stole almost $2 million from us.

JANE S. HOWLETT

Newport Beach

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