Questions linger after Clearwater’s Parks and Recreation theft of $148,000 in cash

Published July 30 2018
Updated July 30 2018

CLEARWATER — The supervisor of the Parks and Recreation employee charged Friday with pocketing $148,000 in cash over the past five years transferred to a desk job in the police department last month, records show.

Brian Craig, a 19-year employee of the Parks and Recreation Department, applied to be a police program specialist on April 30, one month after his subordinate, Bob Carpenter, resigned as a recreation supervisor when city officials questioned him about discrepancies in revenue reports.

The police department began its investigation into Carpenter on March 29, and the police program specialist position was advertised on April 16. The city hired a forensic auditor to analyze Parks and Recreation finances on May 9, and Craig transferred to the police department position on June 23. Carpenter, 58, was arrested on Friday and charged with felony scheming to defraud.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Former Clearwater Parks and Recreation supervisor arrested, accused of pocketing $148,000

Craig’s new position as a police program specialist pays $3,000 less per year than his $62,127 job as a parks and recreation coordinator. But he said Monday his decision had nothing to do with the alleged criminal activity under his watch.

"It was an opportunity to get into a role that had a more regular schedule with a young family," said Craig, 41.

Now that the police investigation into Carpenter’s alleged theft spanning at least five years is concluded, City Manager Bill Horne said he is conducting an administrative review to determine any further disciplinary action. But perspectives about accountability from the top two officials over the parks and recreation department vary widely.

Horne said he puts trust in longtime employees to do their jobs properly. But as city manager and direct supervisor to Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar, Horne said he ultimately takes responsibility for employee misconduct.

"Who’s accountable? I’m accountable," Horne said. "I could very well be put up on a skewer by City Council because of this. The buck stops with me. I’m just about beside myself that something like this happened."

Dunbar, however, who has directed Parks and Recreation since 1999 and is paid $139,413, said he could not have been expected to know this theft was occurring for years because day-to-day responsibility fell to personnel he employed.

"We take in about $6 million a year in revenue through a whole variety of different sources," Dunbar said. "Those are just reports that I typically do not get involved with ... We have people who are paid, and quite frankly paid fairly well, to administer those contracts."

According to the city’s 2014 contract with Ed Bates, owner of Kinney’s Kitchen concessions, Bates was scheduled to pay the city about $2,000 per month for rights to sell food at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex.

Bates told police he had been making regular cash payments to Carpenter without getting receipts since 2014.

Dunbar said Monday Bates was paying in cash because an earlier check had bounced and a cash agreement had been arranged through a previous employee. Dunbar said he was unaware Bates was making cash payments until staff questioned Carpenter about missing revenue on March 29. Dunbar renewed Bates’ contract annually in writing but said he was not aware Carpenter, who was making $52,699 a year, was pocketing the money.

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.

Craig said Monday he was unaware Bates was paying in cash, therefore could not have known Carpenter was not depositing money.

Craig said he had to defer "the checks and balances piece" to the forensic auditor’s findings, which are not yet available.

According to the arrest warrant, 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. And after a parks and recreation employee realized $1,200 was missing from a bag of ticket sales in February, the employee confronted Carpenter who stated he had borrowed $880 from the bag "because he needed the money," according to the warrant.

Mayor George Cretekos said he preferred to wait until Horne finishes analyzing the auditor’s findings before saying whether any of Carpenter’s superiors should be held accountable.

But Cretekos said he was more concerned with future safeguards than discipline for past events.

"If you’ve violated our policies, some disciplinary action needs to be taken, but more important to me is it’s been uncovered now and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again," Cretekos said. "We are custodians of the public’s trust."

Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.