CLEARWATER — Back in February, Parks and Recreation specialist Patrick Carter was counting cash from tournament ticket sales and discovered $1,200 was missing. The bag containing the cash had been cut open.
His supervisor, Bob Carpenter, told Carter he had borrowed $880 "because he needed the money," according to Clearwater police.
But Carter did not report the missing money or the alleged theft until weeks later on March 29, when Carpenter resigned after being confronted by Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar about discrepancies in revenue reports.
By then, Carter had gotten a promotion. On March 17 he became a supervisor at the new Morningside Recreation Center and got a $2,200 salary raise to $46,212.
Carpenter was arrested July 27 and charged with scheming to defraud after police said he pocketed more than $148,000 in city cash over five years.
Carpenter is the only employee who has been charged with a crime but City Manager Bill Horne said he began an administrative review Friday to determine whether disciplinary action should be taken against other department employees.
Horne said he was waiting to scrutinize other employees until an outside forensic auditor had completed her evaluation of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which began May 9.
Communications Director Joelle Castelli declined to release the completed audit this week, saying it was part of the criminal investigation against Carpenter.
Carter did not respond to phone calls or an email requesting comment. But Dunbar said even after he learned Carter initially failed to report Carpenter’s alleged theft, he also refrained from evaluating whether other employees should be disciplined until the investigation was completed.
"(Carter) knew his supervisor borrowed money and he did not think for a moment that his supervisor was stealing money," Dunbar said. "He just thought his supervisor borrowed money because he had a need. When he realized it was theft, that’s when he came forward because he realized when Carpenter had left."
Horne said there is no difference between borrowing and stealing city funds. But he said he wanted the auditor’s report "to get facts" before making any personnel decisions about employees in Carpenter’s orbit.
Carpenter’s direct supervisor, Brian Craig, who was responsible for ensuring Carpenter was depositing cash payments and filing paper work, was also granted a job change amid the investigation into missing Parks and Recreation funds.
Craig beat out 61 other applicants for a special operations coordinator position with Clearwater Police on June 23, even though he did not have the required law enforcement experience or any of the degrees listed on the job posting. Craig stated on his application that he had degrees in business and recreation from University of Florida, but records show he only has a degree in recreation, parks and tourism. It is not a business degree.
Craig’s new position pays $3,000 less per year than his $62,127 job as a parks and recreation coordinator. But in a previous interview, he said his decision to leave Parks and Recreation after 19 years had nothing to do with the alleged criminal activity under his watch.
According to the arrest warrant, police said Carpenter had been pocketing $26,000 in cash payments each year since 2014 from Kinney’s Kitchen owner Ed Bates, the only vendor at the Eddie C. Moore Complex.
City policy clearly states any employee collecting cash from a vendor must provide a receipt and deposit the cash within one business day. Policy requires the employee’s supervisor, in this case Craig, to sign a cash journal report and deposit slip prior to depositing into the bank. According to policy, the paper work should have been then delivered to administration within a week.
Carpenter is also accused of pocketing $54,000 in cash payments from LaLiga Mexicana amateur soccer league since 2013. The team paid $5,500 per season under an agreement to rent city fields.
Police said Carpenter also stole $2,210 in men’s baseball league payments in March from a safe.
Horne said Wednesday that he would have preferred Craig remained in Parks and Recreation until the investigation and his administrative review was completed. Because the move was a voluntary demotion, it did not first come to him for approval, Horne said.
"I wanted the investigation to give me facts about what happened, then based on the timeline involved, I can determine what should appropriately happen to certain individuals," he said.
Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.