Former cemetery district trustee makes public statement

By Catherine Stachowiak

John Blythe told the public, in announcement, during the Kern Valley Exchange Club meeting at Paradise Cove Lodge, Thursday June 6, his version of events regarding alleged mismanagement of the Kern River Valley Cemetery District.  

Blythe’s comments were in response to the recent article in the Kern Valley Sun regarding a meeting Friday June 14 at 11am, which Robert Guidry owner of Lake Isabella Valley Mortuary is holding at his business to petition the Kern County Board of Supervisors to recall the board of trustees for Kern River Valley Cemetery District.

Blythe said, “I served on the board for ten years and last year I quit the board because I knew that the film industry was going on strike.  So I figured this will be part time work, because the district has been behind on audits and minutes, for a number of years now. It’s a public district. So my whole thought was quit the board, work part time, get them all back into compliance. And then come back on the board or whatever would work. I can’t go into decisions that the board made regarding closed sessions, whether it was Grand Jury.  The Grand Jury did an investigation.  They’re still doing a subsequent investigation of the district. The controller has gotten on their case about being so far behind. The DAs office has looked – I mean it’s a mess.”

Blythe said the article the Kern Valley Sun, published June 5, quoting Guidry contained misinformation.   He said, “The board doesn’t get salary.  We’re not on Cal Water.  We’re not doing a merger with any other districts.  We are having a board meeting on (June) the 11th, which is this coming Tuesday at 1pm.  I’m sure it’s going to be a huge meeting.”

He said, “All I’m doing is just helping the board navigate through the Brown Act and all that stuff. And I’m going to continue working with the district’s auditor and the accountant getting everything compliant, back in the law, and after all that’s done probably step away. But they do need a district manager a.s.a.p.”

Blythe’s comment that the district needed management was reflected in Guidry’s previous interview wherein Guidry stated that, at that time, his funeral business was unable to have any shipped in bodies buried or have any headstones put in place. He was at a loss about what to do without cemetery management.  

Blythe said, “They had a special board meeting and they hired a management consultant, Danny Brown who is a district manager for the larger cemetery in Bakersfield.  So he is kind of helping, from a consulting standpoint, until someone can get brought in permanently. That’s kind of brief recap.”

Blythe told the Kern Valley Sun, in a second conversation, that as far as he knew the district’s previous management last had an employee evaluation before COVID in 2019. He did not know of further evaluations, though they may, or may not have occurred.   

Chair of the board of trustees, Harry Schustz claimed he was too busy for an interview with the Kern Valley Sun, and did not know when he could make time. He also never returned any follow up message from the reporter.

The Kern Valley Sun intends to continue following this story.