New Information Emerges In Recreation Department Investigation
Youth worker fired shortly after Youth Center closed.
Additional information has emerged regarding the investigation into possible fiscal mismanagement in the Tewksbury Parks and Recreation Department.
According to an article that first appeared in the Lowell Sun last week, an audit done two years ago red-flagged concerns regarding the fiscal relationship between the Parks and Recreation Department, the Youth Center, the non-profit "Friends of the Tewksbury Teen Center."
The audit, conducted by the firm Powers and Sullivan, expressed concerns over what the auditors deemed were blurry financial lines beteween the entities. Measures were recommended to deal with those concerns but, according to the article, for various reasons they were never implemented.
The Recreation Department and Youth Center, located in the same building at the Saunders Recreation Complex on Livingston Street, were closed indefinitely on Dec. 13, after the PAX (public corruption) Bureau of District Attorney Gerald Leone's office, launched an investigation into the finances of the department.
At the time, a spokesperson for Leone stated that the investigation had been spurred by information gathered by the Tewksbury Police Department.
Parks and Recreation Director Roy Patterson was placed on paid administrative leave.
However, Patterson was not the only Parks and Recreation employee to have their job status impacted by the investigation. Lauren Bibo Morris, who had worked with the department since 2008, was fired on Dec. 17, four days after the department was shut down.
Spokespeople for Leone's office have stressed, on mutliple occasions, that their investigation is not centered on any one individual but on the department as a whole.
Morris, whose official title was "youth worker," was making a salary of $40,266 at the time of her termination. She had been on maternity leave since Nov. 8.
According to town records, Morris acted as Patterson's de facto second-in-command. She coordinated many of the departments programs for both children and adults, developed new programs and acted as a supervisor in Patterson's absence.
A reading of her official job description indicates she was also actively involved in the finances of the department. The job description reads, in part, "Monitor revenues, expenses and budget for assigned areas of responsibility. Recommend cost controls measures and ways to improve programs. Maintain financial and program records and report to Recreation Director. Prepares weekly payroll, vendor invoices and monthly departmental report."
Morris could not be reached for comment.
On Monday, a spokesperson for Leone's office stated that the investigation is ongoing and that no timetable has been established for its completion.
Town Manager Richard Montuori stated Monday that the Recreation Department and Youth Center remain closed indefinitely and that no firm decisions have been made yet regarding how Parks and Recreation programs would function heading into the busy spring and summer seasons.
According to Montuori, the town is presently conducting a town-wide audit looking into the way every department handles cash. He said he expects the audit to be wrapped up in about another month. At that time he will evaluate the findings and determine if changes in policies and procedures regarding the handling of cash need to be made.