John Morton Watson intends to repay his union in full. Before that happens, however, he may have to serve some prison time. Watson, former treasurer of his union, the Clovis Firefighters Association, was charged in Fresno County Superior Court on March 27 with embezzling as much as $150,000 from the association over a more than six-year period. Watson pleaded not guilty. He previously had surrendered to police and was released on his own recognizance. Watson’s next hearing is set for May 1. The union, also known as Local 1695 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, is based in Clovis, a city of about 100,000 near Fresno.
Watson, 37, a resident of Visalia and a 12-year veteran of the Clovis Fire Department, allegedly stole anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000 from the union during 2004-11. When the case came to light in January he reportedly confessed to taking $56,000 and promptly resigned from his firefighting job. He added that he borrowed money from his parents to replenish the union treasury. He and his attorney have proposed a plan to pay back additional funds, but have yet to hear from association officials.