A California judge has upheld the right of Patelco Credit Union's supervisory committee to investigate alleged management abuses.

San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Stuart Pollak ruled April 7 that the committee could set the scope of an investigation without input from the institution's board of directors.

However, if the committee seeks to widen its probe, it must approach the board with a request for reasonable funding, the judge ruled.

The ruling was somewhat ceremonial because Patelco's board, after some foot-dragging, voted last month to let the investigation proceed and allocated money for the probe. But the committee was concerned that the board's resolution didn't explicitly grant it the authority to conduct future investigations, sources said.

The judge affirmed that power.

The probe is in full swing, according to a letter Patelco chairwoman Carol Sorrick sent to the credit union's members. The committee has given employees a phone number to call if they have information about abuses at the credit union, according to the letter.

But the letter does question the validity of the investigation, noting that some of the allegations under scrutiny were raised anonymously.

The only fully documented allegation in court documents is former acting chairman Barry Wenzel's claim that his signature was forged on a survey that supported a proposed merger with First Technology Federal Credit Union.

Ms. Sorrick's letter shrugged off this accusation by saying that Patelco had allowed its marketing department to sign the chairman's name on correspondence.

Nevertheless, the National Credit Union Administration has taken the committee's demands for a probe seriously, having supported its efforts to investigate since February.

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