OT: Say it ain't so, Steve Garvey

I idolized Steve Garvey as a kid. My favorite player in the era of the
Lopes, Cey, Russell infield. I read his biography and had all his
baseball cards.

I knew a little bit about his paternity suits but I had no idea that he
just pretty much welches on everything he owes and still gives
motivational speeches about integrity.


On a June day in 2003, Paige Bilbrey was on the phone frantically
trying to reach her boss, former Los Angeles Dodger great Steve Garvey,
at Le Parc Hotel in Paris, where he was attending the French Open
tennis tournament.

The matter couldn't wait: Standing in the lobby of Garvey's hilltop
mansion outside Park City, Utah, was an employee of the local power
company. Pay the overdue bill, the man said, or he'd turn off the

The incident wasn't the result of an embarrassing oversight. It was
typical of the financial chaos that has reigned in Garvey's life. For
years, Garvey and his wife, Candace, have neglected bills large and
small, leaving dozens of people who either worked for them or sold them
merchandise wondering if they were ever going to get paid.

The Garveys drove luxury cars, shopped in upscale boutiques and
traveled extensively even as they were pursued by creditors. Garvey's
gardener took him to small claims court to recover $1,773. A mirror
installer did the same over $809. A caterer received a court order to
seize valuable artwork from the Garveys until they paid her $14,000

Garvey owes attorneys more than $300,000, according to court records.

Many a former athlete has fallen on hard times, but Garvey - known
during his Dodger days as "Mr. Clean" - is different. As his own
financial troubles deepened, he continued to cast himself as a
principled and accomplished businessman, charging up to $10,000 to give
motivational speeches.

"To only focus on Steve Garvey's baseball accomplishments would leave
out a lifetime of achievements as a businessman, philanthropist,
volunteer and most importantly a devoted family man," reads the website
http://www.stevegarvey.com , billed as his official site. "Garvey
understands that in the ever-changing world we live in there is a great
necessity of being a man of honor, integrity and quality."

But records show that the Garveys have made a habit of dodging payments
on almost every type of expense. Phone, gas and electric bills have
been delinquent. Checks to the local supermarket have bounced.

Fed up with not getting paid, the Garveys' pediatrician wrote a letter
in March 2003 stating that any future medical services provided to
their children would be on a "cash-only" basis.

Even the Garveys' church had to wait nearly a year to receive the
$2,700 it was owed for items the couple had agreed to buy at a charity
auction, according to documents and interviews.

And, in violation of a court ruling, Garvey unilaterally decided to cut
in half the amount of child support he was ordered to pay for a son he
had out of wedlock. Just last year a judge threatened to jail Garvey if
he failed to make payments in the future.

Until two years ago, Garvey and his wife lived in a $5-million mansion
overlooking Utah's world-renowned ski resorts. Yet despite the
appearance of wealth, Garvey - under penalty of perjury - has
repeatedly said in court declarations that he is deeply in debt.

In a two-hour interview with The Times, Garvey acknowledged having
chronic financial problems but declined to publicly address specific
information contained in this article. Speaking generally, he blamed
his debt on a combination of tax liabilities, financial support for
most of his nine children and stepchildren and costly legal battles
over business and personal affairs.

"Do I expect to pay every debt? Do I want to? Absolutely," said Garvey,
now living in Southern California. "The day I'm able to be debt-free is
the day I'm going to be the happiest guy around."

Later, in a prepared statement, Garvey added that he was saddened by
"the misuse of the L.A. Times by outside sources who clearly are intent
on defaming myself and my family. I could positively address each issue
but that would only validate this vicious abuse of a private family."

People owed money by Garvey see themselves, not Garvey, as the victims.
Attorneys who have sued him, for instance, believe he has more money
than he is letting on and allege that he has hidden assets.

Quipped one attorney trying to collect on a $235,000 debt owed by

"Once a Dodger, always a dodger."


More than 20 years after his last at-bat as a Dodger, Garvey's legacy
in Los Angeles endures. The Dodgers keep Garvey on the payroll to make
public appearances on the club's behalf. He was at Dodger Stadium for
opening day last week, and fans who attend the team's July 28 game
against the Washington Nationals will receive a Steve Garvey
bobble-head doll.

Garvey was a 10-time All-Star and four-time winner of a Gold Glove,
given for defensive skill. He was the National League's Most Valuable
Player in 1974 and playoff MVP in 1974, 1977 and 1984. He appeared in
five World Series.

After 14 years with the Dodgers, Garvey signed with the San Diego
Padres for the 1983 season. He retired five years later. At the time,
his image as a strait-laced family man was tarnished by revelations
that he had fathered two children out of wedlock. But the scandal was

Trading on his fame, charm and movie-star good looks, Garvey, now 57,
went into business for himself after baseball, working as a pitchman
and motivational speaker.

At the website promoting him as a motivational speaker, it says that
Garvey's "playing field has changed from the baseball diamond to
corporate boardrooms and lecture halls, but the integrity, intensity
and the devotion for which this future Hall of Famer is famous for is
the same." A promotional DVD shows him standing at a lectern in a
sharply pressed suit, the picture of success. In speeches laden with
baseball analogies, he talks about teamwork and setting goals.

But that image is at odds with Garvey's financially turbulent private
life. A review of more than two dozen court files in California and
Utah shows that he's had money troubles dating back at least a decade.

In a 1996 court declaration, Garvey said he suffered a "financial
disaster" when the Internal Revenue Service disallowed tax deductions
he claimed in connection with an investment in First Western Corp. in
the early 1980s. As a result, he said, he owed $937,000 in back taxes,
penalties and interest.

In addition, Garvey said he owed $10,000 to his ex-wife Cyndy, $40,000
to his current wife's parents, and another $40,000 to his former

"It feels like I owe everyone," his declaration states.

By 2000, Garvey's financial status appeared to improve. He and his wife
moved into a 14,000-square-foot home near Park City, Utah. The estate
came with its own name: The Boulders. It had a commanding view of the
Deer Valley ski resort. The Garveys frequented the Stein Eriksen Lodge
and drove luxury SUVs - a Lexus and a Land Rover.

Their staff included a nanny, a groundskeeper, a handyman and Bilbrey,
who served as a personal assistant to Steve.

But Bilbrey said there was a difference between the image the Garveys
projected and what she witnessed in the Garvey home.

While working for the Garveys from July 2002 through June 2003, Bilbrey
said, dealing with disgruntled creditors was part of her job.

Court records and financial documents reviewed by The Times and
interviews with people who did business with the Garveys corroborate
Bilbrey's claim that the couple's finances were in disarray.

From September 2002 to March 2003, dozens of businesses and people
demanding payment of past-due bills called the Garveys or sent them

In January 2003, a representative of the Bel-Air Hotel in Los Angeles
called to discuss a delinquent balance of more than $8,000 from a
nine-day stay. In addition to the $495-a-night room, the Garveys were
charged $828 for a necklace and bracelet, $189 for a bathrobe, $56 for
Louis Vuitton stationery and $1,271 for dinner, according to their

Andrea Messier said she worked as the Garveys' nanny from December 2002
through June 2003. At first, she said, she had no trouble getting her
$100 a day, for which she shuttled the Garvey children to and from
after-school sporting events, practices and play dates.

But after a couple of months, she said, things changed.

"Candace would say 'talk to Steve' and Steve would say 'talk to
Candace,' " Messier recalled in a telephone interview from her home in

At one point, Messier said, she wrote checks to pay her own rent, car
payment, car insurance and other bills based on a promise that she
would be paid by the Garveys the next day. The promise was not kept,
Messier said, and her bank account was overdrawn.

When she told Steve Garvey what had happened, he offered to pay the
overdraft charges, said Messier, now 25. But not before giving her some
fatherly advice.

"Steve told me you shouldn't send your bills out until you've got money
in your account," Messier recalled. "I just kinda stood there and
looked at him," she said.

After helping to organize a church charity auction in 2003, the Garveys
bid on several items and agreed to buy others totaling about $2,700,
according to records and interviews. Despite numerous calls to the
Garvey home, the bill went unpaid. Nearly a year later, a church
volunteer charged with collecting the debt said she reached Steve
Garvey on his cellphone. The bill was paid a few days later.

A big source of Garvey's money problems stem from a paternity suit
filed by his onetime fiancee, Rebecka Mendenhall. She sued him in 1991,
alleging that he was the father of her child, born in 1989.

In 1993, a judge ruled that Garvey was the boy's father and that
Mendenhall was entitled to child support. Three years later, as Garvey
sought a reduction in the amount he was ordered to pay, he filed the
declaration stating he was nearly a million dollars in debt.

Mendenhall agreed to a reduction. But in 2000, when she heard Garvey
was expected to receive $3 million in disputed pension funds from Major
League Baseball, she filed court papers seeking to adjust his child
support payment.

Though the money never materialized, Mendenhall's lawyers became
convinced that Garvey was attempting to hide income through his current
wife, Candace.

The Garveys stated in court papers that Candace Garvey was the sole
owner of Garvey Management Group Inc., which oversaw Steve Garvey's
public speaking services.

Though the company grossed more than $900,000 in 1999, the Garveys said
Steve Garvey received only a fraction. The vast majority of the profits
went to Candace, whose assets, they argued, were separate and not
subject to Mendenhall's child support claim.

Mendenhall's lawyers also discovered documents related to the purchase
of the Utah house in which Candace stated she had more than $2.5
million in stock, according to court records.

The Garveys argued that those assets were hers alone, acquired when the
couple temporarily separated. But a judge ruled that the assets were
community property under California law, meaning Garvey's half-interest
could be considered when calculating child support.

In addition to finding that Garvey should pay increased support, the
judge ordered him to pay $165,000 to Mendenhall's attorney and
accounting expert. With interest, the debt has since grown to $235,000,
records show.

As the case unfolded, Garvey was also sued by two of his own lawyers.

One was from the law firm of Jaffe and Clemens, which he owed $196,000.
He negotiated a settlement with the firm in 2004 in which he agreed to
a deferred payment of $100,000. That amount is due at the end of June.

Last year, having failed to pay all the court-ordered child support to
Mendenhall, Garvey was found in contempt and faced possible jail time.
Unable to afford an attorney, he represented himself. He told Superior
Court Commissioner James D. Endman that any time behind bars would do
irreparable damage to his reputation, which he banked on to earn a

"I'm at the mercy of this court," Garvey said.

Endman spared Garvey a jail sentence, but warned him of the
consequences if he were to be found in contempt again.

"No more breaks," he told Garvey. "OK?"


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