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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Police investigated Merrimack Youth Association ‘irregular bookkeeping,’ town official wants financial audit

MERRIMACK – County prosecutors opted not to charge the former treasurer of the Merrimack Youth Association’s baseball program even though he “likely withheld some money” from the organization, but the group’s president is confident there was never any criminal intent.

Merrimack police investigated Bert Tenhave last summer after complaints were filed about his handling of the cash deposits and sponsorship checks for the youth sports group’s baseball program. Assistant County Attorney Nicole Thorspecken told police it would be difficult to prove there was any embezzlement even though “the evidence indicates that Mr. Tenhave likely withheld some money,” according to the Merrimack Police investigative file. ...

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MERRIMACK – County prosecutors opted not to charge the former treasurer of the Merrimack Youth Association’s baseball program even though he “likely withheld some money” from the organization, but the group’s president is confident there was never any criminal intent.

Merrimack police investigated Bert Tenhave last summer after complaints were filed about his handling of the cash deposits and sponsorship checks for the youth sports group’s baseball program. Assistant County Attorney Nicole Thorspecken told police it would be difficult to prove there was any embezzlement even though “the evidence indicates that Mr. Tenhave likely withheld some money,” according to the Merrimack Police investigative file.

That’s not good enough for some town councilors, who have pushed for a forensic audit of the group’s finances as a condition to providing more than $70,000 in taxpayer funding to the group this year.

Town Council Vice President David Yacuboff said he has serious questions about the MYA leadership and will move to have an audit done immediately if the group signs the new contract with the town.

“I was just astounded that all this stuff happened and no one followed up on it; no one being the MYA,” he said. “I’m not willing to let this go. There’s quite a bit of money that changes hands there, and no one seems to be able to keep track of it, and that’s a problem.”

MYA President Terrence Benhardt said the investigation showed some bad habits and “highly irregular bookkeeping procedures,” but no intent to siphon money by Tenhave.

“There wasn’t any evidence of true intent to embezzle or deprive the MYA of any money as far as we can tell,” he said. “I don’t see any intent on his part at all of depriving the MYA of any money they were entitled to.”

Benhardt said Tenhave was relieved of his duties as treasurer immediately and fully cooperated with MYA officials during the investigation.

Paul Williams, who runs MYA’s baseball program, first brought his concerns to MYA’s executive board and later the police when he learned $5,000 from an MYA money market account was needed to pay regular operating expenses. After investigating himself, he told police it appeared Tenhave found sponsorship checks that roughly matched cash deposits, deposited the checks instead and held onto the cash, according to the police report.

Williams showed police about $3,500 in cash deposits that weren’t deposited as well as sponsorship checks deposited in lieu of cash, according to the report.

Tenhave told police he held on to some cash to make purchases at places like Sam’s Club – and sometimes used his own money to do so – for things like repairs and supplies. He said he kept a week’s worth of bags containing $150 at home as well that were used to open the concession stand at Bise field. He said he balanced the books by depositing money still at his home at the end of the year, according to the report.

Tenhave also turned money over to police during two interviews, once for a total of $1,500 and once for a total of $1,870 he said he found under a copy machine, according to the report.

Tenhave told police he never withheld money from the baseball program and said everything could be explained if he went through the accounting records with them. He also gave police a 13-page statement explaining that he thought Williams had an “(ax) to grind with him,” according to the report.

Tenhave did not return a call seeking comment.

Williams deferred most questions to Benhardt but said he brought his concerns first to MYA’s executive board and then to police. He said the issue was kept quiet at least at first so no one would be falsely accused.

“We wouldn’t have caught what we caught, or didn’t (catch), if we weren’t paying attention,” Williams said. “There was a caution to proceed in a proper, respectful way to not tarnish someone’s reputation.”

Yacuboff said he, and at least some of the other councilors, wants to continue funding the youth sports the group provides but won’t without a forensic audit.

“They don’t want to give the money to the program to be lost and squandered,” he said. “We’re hoping they will sign the contract. If they don’t, they won’t have their funding by July 1.”

Benhardt said the MYA has agreed to pay for a forensic audit, and he hopes to hire an outside accounting firm to begin that process by the fall.

“We have no problems and no qualms with the audit. Our qualm was paying for the audit, which we’re going to do,” he said.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).