As city leaders have their internal auditor examine files from a police investigation into Columbus’ Parks and Recreation Department scandal, another employee connected to that debacle is facing termination.
Margaret Brown, 47, the recreation services division manager who was closely involved in the Innovative Sports Program that last year prompted a police investigation resulting in the arrest and firing of then-director Tony Adams, has been given five days to explain why she should not be fired, said Tom Barron, the city human resources director.
Barron said his office was given no reason for Brown’s impending termination.
Adams was fired Sept. 28, 2010, and the city has yet to hire a new Parks and Rec director, so Brown’s immediate supervisor currently is Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin, who said she could not comment on the personnel matter.
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Brown was suspended without pay last Friday, said Barron, adding she has until this Friday to show why she should not be fired.
At Tuesday’s Columbus Council meeting, councilors unanimously and without comment approved Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s request that city internal auditor John Redmond peruse files from the police investigation and pinpoint any problems yet to be addressed.
The mayor told a reporter she wants to ensure the city’s next Parks and Rec director starts with a clean slate. “I don’t want the new director to have to deal with any lingering issues,” Tomlinson said.
Barron said Brown has been with the city since March 8, 1994. She was making $43,643 a year, he said.
Adams and recreation specialist Herman Porter were arrested Aug. 24, 2010, on charges related to funneling more than $200,000 in public funds into a private bank account in the name of the Columbus Blazers, an elite basketball team within the Innovative Sports Program that operated under the recreation services division Brown headed. Brown, who coached a girls’ basketball team within that program, was among the Parks and Rec workers police questioned.
The investigation revealed the Blazers’ elite team for boys age 17 or younger was getting money and equipment from sports-gear giant Nike Inc., and Adams, its coach, was recruiting top players from outside Columbus rather than serving only local youth.
Over five years Adams and Porter got about $135,000 in cash from Nike through an Atlanta-area nonprofit called East Marietta Basketball Inc., and instead of depositing those funds into city accounts, they routed the money to the Blazers account they’d set up using the city’s tax-exempt ID number, police said.
Adams, 48, pleaded guilty March 10 to two counts of conspiracy to defraud the city. He was sentenced to four years’ probation and ordered to pay the city $25,000 in restitution and to perform 50 hours of community service.
Porter, 42, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor theft charges. He was sentenced to 12 months’ consecutive probation on each and ordered to pay the city $20,000 in restitution. Suspended without pay since his arrest, Porter as part of the agreement pledged to leave his city job and not reapply.