CLEARWATER — A city auditor's investigation completed this month found Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar misused his position when he had two employees repair his home sprinkler system after work hours in 2017 without paying them.
One of the employees told City Auditor Yvonne Taylor that Dunbar offered to pay for the labor but that they declined, only accepting $21 reimbursement to cover the replacement valve they purchased and installed.
"Neither expected payment as whenever the boss asks for help, help is given," Taylor wrote, later declining to confirm the name of the employee who made that statement. "The employee feels obligated and if asked to do work again, he would. Telling the director 'no' is not an option."
As a result of the investigation, prompted by anonymous complaints in the city's online reporting system, City Manager Bill Horne issued Dunbar a letter of admonishment, his second in 100 days, and stated another breach of confidence would result in termination.
"I am reminding you of your ethical obligations as a public official and that you are expected to act ethically at all times in all capacities with integrity and conduct yourself in ways that reflect well upon the city of Clearwater," Horne wrote.
The report, released on Thursday , follows a separate city investigation into Parks and Recreation completed in October, which concluded that Dunbar and Assistant Director Mike Lockwood failed to ensure oversight of the department, enabling a former employee's alleged theft of $148,000 over five years.
Former recreation supervisor Bob Carpenter was arrested July 27 and charged with felony scheming to defraud after police say he pocketed cash from a food vendor and soccer league and stole proceeds from ticket sales.
Following the October findings, City Manager Bill Horne fired Carpenter's then supervisor Brian Craig; accepted the resignation of recreation supervisor Patrick Carter, who failed to promptly report Carpenter's alleged theft; and issued letters of admonishment to Dunbar and Lockwood.
The October investigation also revealed a toxic "good ole boys club" inside the department's athletic division that demeaned women and drove one to quit her job and another to consider resigning.
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Dunbar said this week the cases were not a pattern of misconduct on his part but serve as a reminder for all managers in the department to act ethically and efficiently.
"The reality is I run a very large organization and obviously we had something very bad happen a while back that still has these tentacle pieces or events from it," Dunbar told the Tampa Bay Times. "I know the reality. But I get the perception."
According to Taylor's report, an employee stated Dunbar approached him about a problem with his irrigation system and asked him to stop by his home to determine the problem. The employee brought a colleague along and the two evaluated the problem, left to buy a replacement valve and returned to install it within an hour and a half.
He stated it was raining and Dunbar held an umbrella over them while they worked. The employee told Taylor that Dunbar offered to pay for the labor but he declined and only accepted the $21 to cover the cost of the part.
In his interview with Taylor, Dunbar said that after he described a problem with his home sprinkler to landscape coordinator Paul Mack, the employee offered to "check it out one of these evenings after work." Dunbar provided text messages showing that on the day of the October 2017 visit, he asked Mack if he'd prefer to reschedule due to rainy weather but that Mack confirmed he was on his way.
Dunbar said after the diagnosis, he offered to go out and buy the part but that Mack went out to do it himself. After returning and installing the part, Dunbar said he provided Mack with $25 cash for the $21 part. Dunbar said they declined his offer to pay for labor "due to how minor the repair was."
Taylor concluded the unpaid after-hours work at Dunbar's residence was "an apparent misuse by the director of his position," according to state law that forbids public employees from using their position "to secure a special privilege" or benefit.
Dunbar agreed to not have any city employees at his home "unless directed by another department."
Taylor also investigated the history of employees hiring Parks and Recreation support specialist Lyle Adams, who owns an electrical repair business, for paid work.
Dunbar provided two cancelled checks to show he hired Adams for a $525 job in August and a $200 job in October. The two other Parks and Recreation employees told Taylor they paid Adams in cash and had no receipts. Some of the interviewees referred to Adams as the "community electrician" who owns a business and performs electrical work for employees throughout the city.
Taylor did not find the hiring of a city employee by employees and managers outside of work hours violates state law but said a conflict of interest "may exist" under city policy that prohibits activity that places employees or the city "in an equivocal, embarrassing or ethically questionable position" and "reflect on the integrity of the city."
Adams told Taylor that Dunbar never instructed him to do personal work for him on city time and never asked for discounts.
Dunbar responded by stating the entire Parks and Recreation Department leadership team will discontinue hiring city employees for paid work, even though Taylor didn't explicitly recommend that measure.
Contact Tracey McManus at email@example.com or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.