Booster clubs struggle with accounting rules
RICHFIELD, Ohio (AP) - Jodie Mackie still believes in her high school's sports booster club.
Even after a former Revere All Sports Booster Club treasurer was convicted for stealing nearly $140,000, the mother of a three-sport athlete continues to sell 75-cent bags of popcorn at athletic events for the club that offsets the costs of high school sports.
"I feel the club is now aware of potential things that could go wrong," she said.
Like others across the nation, the club is working to establish safer, more detailed accounting practices without scaring off volunteers, the Akron Beacon Journal reported Tuesday.
"Nobody wants to do double-checks on somebody," said David Reph, former president of the Whitehall (Pa.) Booster Club where a former treasurer stole $17,000. "Nobody wants that burden. It's hard enough as it is to find people to step up and help run these functions."
Historically, the organizations have had loose accounting practices and depended upon the trust of neighbors. Club members receive little if any guidance from their affiliated high schools.
These factors create an opportunity that, at times, has been too inviting for club officials to resist, said Dave Flegal, athletic director at Revere High School.
"Sometimes good people make bad decisions," he said.
Nationally, thousands of dollars were reported missing last year at booster groups that raise an average $23,000 each, said Steve Beden, executive director of the National Booster Club Association, founded in 2001 to compensate for the lack of guidance.
"They'll have a few hundred thousand in the bank, and within a matter of a year or two, nobody knows where it went to," Beden said. "It's like, where did it go?"
Former Revere treasurer Jim Butler, 61, is to be sentenced in two weeks and faces up to five years in prison for aggravated theft.
"We got lulled into a sense of complacency," said Stephen Verbeck, president of the Revere club at the time of the theft.
Deborah Moore, assistant commissioner of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, said a high school representative should serve as a voting member to advise the group, "to check with them about basic needs and requirements, to educate them, not just to go with a hand out."
Most booster clubs have organizational bylaws that protect against theft and appropriation of funds, but members need to participate to enforce the rules.
"Many parents really don't get involved," Reph said. "They don't really ask a lot of questions until something happens. They just assume that everything's there."
Many clubs are making changes.
At the Westerville North Athletic Boosters near Columbus where a former treasurer stole nearly $40,000, the club has obtained an insurance policy to cover theft and a bond to cover its new treasurer, said former president Robert Cheugh.
Wendy Pollarine, the new club treasurer at Revere, is using her accounting background to help. Revere now requires external audits and that officers and five voting members be present to approve expenditures of more than $2,500.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)