New details emerge in rec council management saga
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 12:43

Embezzlement, unfiled taxes among issues

by Nicole Rodman

Details continue to emerge regarding the financial management issues plaguing a number of local recreation councils.
    As reported in last week’s issue of The Eagle,   financial concerns have led one recreation council to lose its federal 501(c)(3) status, another to be dissolved and a third in danger of being dissolved or merged with another council.
    The Patapsco Neck-Norwood (PNN) Recreation Council was dissolved last year after it was discovered that the grandson of the treasurer was stealing funds from the council.
    According to Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, David Kyle Davidson Jr. stole the PNN checkbook from his  grandmother and took $15,883.72.
  

As court records indicate, the theft took place over a period from October 2011 to March 2012.
    Davidson was convicted in December 2012. He was given a sentence of eight years with four years suspended. He will be on probation after his release.
    In addition to being sentenced to a term in prison, the court issued a judgement ordering Davidson to pay back the stolen funds to PNN.
    A former PNN volunteer, who asked to remain anonymous, identified Davidson’s grandmother — the former PNN treasurer — as Tess Hoover.
    Attempts to reach Hoover for comment were unsuccessful as of press time.
    Financial issues have also plagued the West Inverness Recreation Council for years.
    West Inverness was placed on probation after it was discovered that the council had not filed taxes for eight years.
    According to Brian Weir, a Board of Recreation and Parks member representing Council District 7 and a current candidate for County Council, the West Inverness council has until June to correct the tax issues and assemble a full council board or it will likely be dissolved or merged with another council.
    Tax issues have not been the only financial concerns for West Inverness.
    In August 2005, council volunteer Jodie Ruble was convicted of stealing funds from the West Inverness council.
    According to Shellenberger, Ruble received a suspended sentence, 200 hours of community service and was ordered to pay $17,700 in restitution to the West Inverness Rec Council.
    The issue of theft from county rec councils is not unique to Dundalk.
    In 2010, Catherine Strother was convicted of stealing $110,000 from the Parkville Recreation and Parks Council during a period from October 2003 to January 2009.
    Strother received a 15-year suspended sentence and probation, and was ordered to pay restitution.
    These issues — including theft and failure to file taxes — have raised concerns over the level of financial oversight exercised over county recreation councils.
    As was noted in last week’s issue of The Eagle, the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks declined to comment directly when asked about the financial issues plaguing local recreation councils.
    For her part, county spokesperson Ellen Kobler told The Eagle, “In Baltimore County, recreation councils operate as independent entities and are not subject to supervision by the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks.”
    “Every two years, they must submit a certification of financial status to the all-volunteer Baltimore County Board of Recreation and Parks,” Kobler added. “The Board of Recreation and Parks reviews these submissions and determines whether the council will be re-certified.”
    Board of Recreation and Parks chair Michael Weber did not respond  directly when asked if the re-certification process — which consists of a two-page questionnaire filled out by council volunteers — was the only form of oversight over recreation councils.
    A former volunteer with PNN raised concerns over  the lack of oversight over that council’s finances prior to the discovery of Davidson’s theft.
    “The county was extremely lax in forcing the treasurer to provide any financial reports,” the volunteer told The Eagle.
    Bob Krieger’s children spent years participating in West Inverness dance classes before he began to raise questions about the council’s finances.
    According to Krieger, he took his concerns to every level of the county — from the local recreation office to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz — and encountered resistance every step of the way.
    “It’s mind-boggling the way they try to cover stuff up,” he said of the county’s response.
    As Krieger noted, financial issues like the theft of council funds end up hurting the very people the rec programs are designed to serve.
    “That’s a low-income area over there in West Inverness,” he concluded, noting, “I’ve watched parents count out change so their kids can dance.”