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Safety Harbor finance director fired

Times Staff Writer

SAFETY HARBOR — City Finance Director JoAnne Ryan has been fired after the city manager said he discovered unauthorized personal transactions on a city credit card.

Ryan was on vacation earlier this month when City Manager Matt Spoor opened documents relating to an American Express bill that would normally have gone to her. Spoor said he found numerous unauthorized transactions, most for flights, rental cars and hotel rooms relating to a Clearwater youth basketball team that her daughters played for.

Ryan was placed on administrative leave without pay on Aug. 18 and fired two days later. A state attorney's investigation could conclude within two weeks, according to Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe.

In Ryan's termination letter, Spoor wrote: "You admitted to a state attorney's office investigator and me that since Oct. 2007, you had used the city's American Express card for 44 unauthorized personal transactions totaling $12,909. Most of these expenses were incurred in connection with the Clearwater Green Wave AAU basketball club. In addition, you admitted to performing inappropriate accounting actions in connection with your unauthorized personal use of the credit card.''

Ryan could not be reached for comment.

Spoor said that Ryan wrote a check to the city for more than $8,000.

She had worked for the city for 24 years and was finance director for 18. She won numerous awards for her budgets.

She has been deeply involved in basketball since her teenage years at St. Vincent Ferrer High School in New York City. In the late 1970s, she played at Wilkes College.

Records show that in 1998, Ryan founded a nonprofit called the Clearwater High Lady Tornadoes Basketball Booster Club. Her daughter, Nicole, was a standout player for Clearwater High as well as the Green Wave. She now plays for American University.

Her younger daughter, Veronica, plays for the Tornadoes.

"I'm saddened and disappointed that a person whom we all held in such high regard would betray our trust,'' said Mayor Andy Steingold.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Safety Harbor finance director fired 08/26/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 2:35pm]
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