Friday, May 26, 2006

The Knuckleheads Of The Day: Dangerous Money

Some southern California football coaches are a little red-faced about some of the intimate expenses that were charged to the booster club's debit card:
Allegations of improper expenditures by the Fallbrook High football booster club have been referred to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department after the Fallbrook school district found an ATM withdrawal of $164.95 at a brothel in Nevada, among other questionable transactions on a booster club debit card.

Fallbrook Union High School District Superintendent Tom Anthony said he referred the case to the sheriff's office in Fallbrook after the district conducted its own investigation. The case was referred last week to the financial crimes unit, Sheriff's Lt. Grant Burnett said.

Anthony said some transactions on the debit card were “extremely disturbing” to him and the district's board of trustees. Chief among them, he said, was the ATM withdrawal during Thanksgiving weekend last year at 48 Kit Kat Drive in Carson City, Nev., the location of the Kit Kat Guest Ranch, a brothel.

Debit card records obtained from Anthony show a withdrawal at that ATM of $164.95 at 3:21 a.m. on Nov. 26. It was categorized on the debit card account as “Coaches Expenses: Clinics.”

Debit card and travel records show that then-head football coach Dennis Houlihan traveled from Los Angeles to Reno that weekend via Alaska Airlines and rented a car from Nov. 25-27 in Reno. Purchases for his air travel ($253.40) and rental car ($87.51) were on the debit records, categorized as coaches expenses.

The debit card records also show a withdrawal in Carson City at 9:45 p.m. on Nov. 25 for $282 – hours before the withdrawal at the brothel. It also was categorized as “Coaches Expenses: Clinics.”

Additionally, Anthony referenced other questionable purchases categorized as coaches expenses, including one from Chalet Liquor in January for almost $30.

A big part of the issue, Anthony said, is where the money for the booster club came from and, if it came from private sources, the purpose for which the money was donated. The debit records show thousands of dollars in deposits last year under the category of “Liftathon,” a fund-raising weight-lifting program at Fallbrook. Anthony said the Liftathon normally is deposited in accounts of the Associated Student Body and is generated by students.

Houlihan, 35, and four of his assistants resigned their coaching positions at Fallbrook High two weeks ago. Houlihan, who remained on the teaching staff, did not return phone messages seeking comment yesterday.

At the time, the coach cited a lack of support from the administration stemming from the district's investigation into the alleged expense improprieties. Houlihan said he was placed on paid administrative leave for two weeks in late March and early April while school officials looked into it, but said he was cleared. After he returned to work, Houlihan said he asked officials to issue a public statement saying he had been cleared of any wrongdoing. No statement was issued.

Yesterday Anthony issued a statement that said: “Because of the district's close ties to the Fallbrook Booster Club and the fact that a substantial amount of fund-raising for the benefit of our students is done by the booster club in the name of our school district, upon review of the nature of the expenditures . . . I along with the Board of Trustees immediately initiated an investigation.”

“What is very disturbing in this matter is the potential for eroding the trust of the community,” the statement said.
It's been said that "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."

I guess that doesn't apply in Carson City or the Kit Kat Guest Ranch.
See our latest education-related expenses posts right here.