CLEARWATER — Two city employees are out of jobs this week, and several administrators have been reprimanded, for their failures that enabled a former Parks and Recreation employee’s alleged theft of $148,000 in cash over five years in a department that had little oversight of money.
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.
City Manager Bill Horne on Wednesday fired Carpenter’s then-supervisor Brian Craig for a "gross lack of oversight" and negligence that enabled the theft. Horne accepted the resignation of recreation supervisor Patrick Carter, who told police he knew Carpenter took cash from a bag of ticket-sale money in February but did not report it until Carpenter resigned March 29.
Part-time recreation leader James Chapman was put on a development plan, with further discipline pending, for failing to report Carpenter borrowed funds for a "medical appointment," according to communications director Joelle Castelli.
Horne also issued letters of admonishment to parks and recreation director Kevin Dunbar and assistant director Mike Lockwood for "failure to ensure appropriate oversight and internal control." Horne determined that Dunbar, Lockwood, Deputy City Manager Jill Silverboard and himself will not be eligible for pay raises in 2019 in light of the theft.
"I feel so strongly about this issue of accountability that I think that’s appropriate for us to do," Horne said.
The administrative review initiated by Carpenter’s arrest also revealed a toxic "good ole boys club" inside the department’s athletics division that demeaned women and drove one to quit her job, another to consider resigning and another to fear retaliation from Craig, according to the report released Wednesday.
Police Chief Dan Slaughter hired Craig for a desk job in the police department in June over 61 applicants despite the ongoing investigation into the Parks and Recreation theft under Craig’s watch. Craig, a friend of Slaughter’s, had no law-enforcement experience and stated on his application he had a degree he did not have, the Tampa Bay Times first reported.
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Three witnesses interviewed by the city’s Office of Diversity and Equity Services said that Craig, Carter, Carpenter and Caleb Peterson, who resigned in May, were part of a clique that ostracized female employees who were "excluded from vital information."
Carter could not be reached for comment. Craig hung up on a reporter.
Two witnesses said that Craig, Carter and Carpenter bullied a female employee about her office decor to the point she rolled up a rug, removed it and was brought to tears, according to the report.
Three witnesses said that Craig repeatedly stood behind or hovered over one woman to the point she "left the city early and didn’t even say goodbye." One witness told investigators, "I swear he would look down her blouse" although the woman reported she had never seen him look down her blouse as he was behind her.
One female witness said that Craig excluded her from emails, which hindered her from doing her job.
At least four witnesses told investigators that Craig and Carpenter made sexist comments toward women. Craig was reported as dismissing a female employee by stating " her hormones are kicking in" and in other cases stating women were "emotional" and "stupid."
Investigators were told that Craig "liked young girls" and that he had protested the hiring of a woman because she was "too old and would not fit in."
The investigation determined Craig and Carpenter were involved in "perpetuating a culture which allowed these women to feel demeaned compared to men."
The investigation into the department’s handling of cash revealed a lack in following policy to prevent theft and shortages. It also found that management did not ensure payments were entered into the online system.
For example, the system showed field reservations by a soccer league between January and June of 2013 along with a $1,500 payment. From June 2013 to December 2016, the system logged the league’s consistent reservations but showed no payment.
The soccer league’s use was not entered into the system for 2017/2018.
Employees reported there were times a group showed up to use a facility without a documented reservation but said that Carpenter or Craig "said it was okay" and displayed a permit as proof they paid to use the facility.
According to the report, Craig stated he noticed in the past year Carpenter was not entering the soccer league into the online system but did not follow up after asking him to correct it.
Investigators also found the athletics division under Craig had no way to track gift cards purchased by or donated to the department. He did not account for who used them, and they were kept in a manila envelope with handwritten scribbles.
Investigators determined Dunbar used gift cards to take "one of the presidents of the tournament groups" out to a business lunch, but he could not recall the restaurant or amount used.
The report concludes there is no evidence of culpability by Dunbar or Lockwood, but there was a lack of oversight of Craig and department policy.
Horne said he does not think any other employee was working with Carpenter to steal money.
"Everybody made assumptions that everybody was doing what they were supposed to be doing," he said. "The reality is they weren’t."
Dunbar did not respond to a request for comment. But in an email to employees last month, he called this ordeal his "lowest moment and my greatest failure as a leader" in 38 years and called for the department to unify.
"I must do more and I will do more," Dunbar wrote. "The aftermath of this will not be pretty, but we will become better due to what we have and will learn."
Contact Tracey McManus at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.