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Parks embezzlement aftermath, part 1: director apologizes

One of the stories we've been following this year is the embezzlement case involving the St. Louis parks department.

As we noted in our September 9 post, two officials from the city park system pleaded guilty to criminal charges. The two men acknowledged that they had used false invoices to funnel city money to a sham company. In other words, they embezzled the money for their own uses. They will be sentenced this month.

A few weeks ago, during the week before Thanksgiving, the director of the parks department issued an apology to the parks committee - and by extension, to public -- for the costly fraud. In this two-part post, we will discuss that development in the case, as well as the department's proposed changes.

The total amount of funds that were stolen was nearly $465,000.

The parks director told the committee that oversees St. Louis city parks that he realized that the trust of the public has to be earned. Expressing disappointment at what had happened, he apologized for the embezzlement, saying it did not reflect the true character of the department's stewardship of public money.

In a question-and-answer session, the parks director was asked whether better internal controls cold have prevented the embezzlement. The director's answer was that this would have been difficult because of the inside knowledge of the park system financial process that the two men who pleaded guilty to embezzlement had acquired over the years.

One of the men who pleaded guilty had been deputy commissioner of the park system. The other had been the chief park ranger.

Source: St. Louis Public Radio, "St. Louis Parks Department Vows Changes After $465,000 Fraud," Rachel Lippmann, Nov. 20, 2013 

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