Durham sports boosters cope with mismanagement of club funds

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DURHAM — The Athletic Booster Club of Durham has recovered more than $12,000 from the former club president after he admitted misusing organization funds.

The club is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit run by seven volunteer members. It provides recreational softball, soccer, and basketball for kindergarten through fifth grade at Durham Community School, which is part of Freeport-based Regional School Unit 5.

Approximately 300 children participate in club sports programs each year. Club funding comes primarily from donations from local businesses and residents, and a registration fee of about $40 per participant for all recreational sports.

After members discovered financial discrepancies in club funds in late June, President Jacob Webb was asked to resign as president and as soccer and baseball coach of sixth through eighth grade at Durham Community School. The club also asked Webb to return all equipment and supplies, issue a written public apology, and make restitution for all unaccounted funds.

On Tuesday, Aug. 15, Webb said he had no comment on the matter.

Webb has worked in commercial sales at Hammond Lumber Co. since 2010. He also was the varsity basketball coach at Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn, where the position for the upcoming season was recently posted online.

In an undated apology letter written to the club that was posted on its Facebook page, Webb said, “I have in the past mismanaged the Booster Club and have also co-mingled funds between the Booster Club accounts and my personal one.”

According to minutes of the club’s meetings obtained by The Forecaster, discrepancies in its financial records came to light after new board members were elected June 29.

A review of finances by President Zach Kazan, who was formerly vice president, former Treasurer Jeanna Costigan, and Secretary Jeff Gervais revealed many transaction receipts were missing and a complete reconciliation of the club’s account could not be achieved.

Their report found Webb routinely spent more than the club’s monthly allowance limit without obtaining board approval, with no knowledge from other board members.

The report concluded, “The President’s actions were in violation of the by-laws. Although no other members of the Board were found in any direct violation of the by-laws, the lack of oversight and commitment to the Board responsibilities (including activities such as holding and attending regularly scheduled meetings, and periodic review of expenses) contributed to the situation.”

Costigan resigned from the board July 9.

According to minutes of that meeting, Costigan said she felt uncomfortable with what she found in the financial records and wasn’t qualified to “tackle it.” Along with her resignation, Costigan handed over financial documents given to her by Webb, including two personal checks dated July 8, payable to the club for $909.93 and $3,907, and $960 in cash.

Webb also turned in a check from Lisbon Federal Credit Union for $1,669.94.

After reviewing Costigan’s resignation, the board moved into a two-hour executive session, where members voted to spend no more than $1,000 to seek legal counsel on how to move forward.

In a July 16 special meeting, according to the minutes, Webb said he was unsure how much money he thought he had mismanaged since becoming the club’s president. He admitted violating club bylaws and mismanaging funds, and agreed to make restitution of an additional $5,000, submit a public apology, resign from the club and all Durham Community School coaching positions, and return all booster club equipment.

According to the minutes, Webb apologized for hurting the club, the school, his family, and the kids. In his apology, he also stated that he is “confident in the new Booster club leadership and excited to see all the new ideas and direction they can offer.”

As long as Webb satisfied all of the club’s requests, the board agreed that no further action or charges would be pursued and the matter would be considered closed.

On Aug. 11, Chief Deputy William Gagne of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department said he didn’t believe the club had any legal obligation to report the incident.

“If (the club) opted to handle it internally and get their money back, they are permitted to do so,” Gagne said.

On July 24, the board acknowledged receipt of $5,000 from Webb, along with his resignation and apology letter. It posted the letter on both the club and All Things Durham Facebook pages. Both posts have since been removed.

Kazan was elected president, with Jason Hafford taking over as vice president. The treasurer position remains vacant. Until the spot is filled, duties are being shared by Kazan and Gervais, with oversight from directors Darrell Costigan, Jason Greene, Tom Landberg and Tony Roy.

Gervais declined to speak on the record about the events.

On July 27, Kazan explained the situation on the club’s Facebook page, noting that Webb cooperated with the club’s new officers to resolve financial issues.

“We would like to look to the future to provide the best athletic programs we can for the children of our community,” he wrote.

Kazan also declined to speak with a reporter Tuesday night, Aug. 15, after a club meeting attended by the board, about a dozen Durham residents and two officials from RSU 5 at Durham Community School.

A reporter who attended the meeting was told to leave by Kazan, who said it was a private meeting open only to Durham residents and invited guests.

The RSU 5 officials – Director of Finance and Human Resources Michelle Lickteig and Director of Athletics Craig Sickels – said they asked to attend after Sickels heard about the situation from a Freeport coach.

“It’s always unfortunate when something like this happens,” RSU 5 Superintendent of Schools Becky Foley said Monday, before the meeting. “We understand that Jacob has resigned and we’re very hopeful to continue a positive working relationship with (the club). … We’re looking to see what they’re planning to do to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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