AG to probe missing community center funds

Posted Sept. 20, 2010, at 9:19 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — A months-long investigation into funds missing from the former Sebasticook Valley Community Center has been taken over by the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

Penobscot County District Attorney Christopher Almy said the investigation, which was handled initially by the Newport Police Department, moved to the state level at the request of members of the community center’s board.

“The community center has made some kind of request that the Attorney General’s Office look at the case,” Almy said Monday. “This happens from time to time and I don’t really have a problem with it.”

Pamela Newcomb, chairwoman of the community center’s board of directors, said Monday that she was unaware of any such request.

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Nicole Sacre, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said she could neither confirm nor deny any details about the investigation — including whether it is happening at all.

No one has been charged in connection with funds missing from the center, and very few details about any alleged theft or embezzlement have been made public.

Newport Police Chief Leonard Macdaid said Monday that his department concluded its investigation weeks ago, forwarding the name of a single suspect to Almy’s office. Macdaid would not say who the suspect is or discuss any other details about the case. He has told the Bangor Daily News previously that at least one addi-tional person was considered a suspect, but he said Monday that the investigation cleared that person of wrongdoing. Macdaid said the investigation has been taken over by Brian MacMaster, head of investigations for the attorney general.

The situation caused Newport selectmen to repeal $100,000 in funds that the community center was expecting in the current year. That money was approved at the March 12 town meeting after an amendment from the floor and subsequent debate added $30,000 to the selectmen’s original $70,000 recommendation.

“Everyone at that meeting knew they were voting on money that had been going to the community center for years,” said Newcomb.

Newport selectmen have said in press releases that the wording of the article left the ultimate decision about how to spend the money up to them.

On March 17, citing the investigation into the missing funds, selectmen voted to withhold the $100,000 pending the results of the investigation, followed by a March 23 vote to make the cut permanent. Since then the town has hired a part-time recreation director, offered summer sports programming, appointed a recreation committee and invested in upgrades at the town beach and tennis courts.

The community center vacated its building, the former armory on North Street, on Aug. 31, citing the selectmen’s decision. On Sept. 1, the town took over the lease of the building, which is now being referred to as the Newport Recreation Center.

Newcomb said the community center’s board of directors is concerned that the town’s focus on just youth activities will leave a void.

“We’re trying to see how things are going to pan out in terms of public opinion,” she said. “We hope that we can get things back together and find a space but we haven’t made any decisions yet.”

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