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June 18. 2013 9:11PM

Merrimack Youth Association seeks tighter grip on its money

MERRIMACK — Responding to allegations of sketchy financial practices by the former treasurer of the Merrimack Youth Association’s baseball program, a new contract has been presented to the organization’s executive board to prevent future mishandling of money.

The MYA’s contract with the Town of Merrimack expires at the end of the month, and so far, the youth sports organization has not agreed to the new terms of the contract, with more financial control measures in place.Under the newly revised contract, a clause has been added that would require the MYA to provide audited financial statements by Oct. 31 of each year. That would include a review of internal control procedures prepared by a certified public accountant.In addition, the town council will have the right to require that a forensic audit be conducted at the MYA’s expense if there is reason to suspect irregularities in financial management, controls, balances or oversight, according to the newly drafted document, which has not yet been signed by MYA leaders.

“The town manager came up with appropriate language in the contract, and I am comfortable with it. I don’t want to deviate from it,” town councilor Bill Boyd said this week, responding to reports that the MYA may attempt to amend the new contract.

“The MYA building is owned by the town, so concededly, the locks could be changed if no contract is signed,” said Boyd, adding that he does not want to see that happen. “This is about the kids of Merrimack right now, and these leaders need to act like adults. An audit makes sense.”

Last week, two other town council members called for the resignation of the MYA president, Terence “Terry” Benhardt, following a lengthy police investigation into questionable financial bookkeeping by the MYA’s former baseball program treasurer.

Last year, a police investigation took place to determine whether Bert Tenhave, the former baseball treasurer, was possibly embezzling from the sports program. Following a six-month investigation, representatives from the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office determined they would not prosecute Tenhave on any criminal charges, but did say he was likely withholding money from the MYA’s baseball program.However, throughout the investigation, Tenhave was able to return to police more than $3,000 owed to the group.“We are giving this organization a do-over, and letting them start fresh,” said Boyd. “But, I can’t do it in good faith if I don’t trust the people managing the books.”

Boyd said Monday that although many good individuals have worked hard to make the MYA and its various sports programs a success, there are some people who should step down.

“Terry Benhardt has done tremendous work, but we need changes and we need to eliminate the crisis of confidence that now exists. He should step away and hand it over to someone free from the blight that is currently on the MYA,” said Boyd.Benhardt and MYA vice president Kristin Tevepaugh have not returned phone calls from the New Hampshire Union Leader seeking comment.
Paul Williams, baseball program president, said Tuesday that the forensic audit clause in the contract is causing concern, mostly because of the cost.“We are not trying to be irresponsible or standoffish. We are scared, for a lack of a better word, because we don’t know how much it will cost or how long it could go on,” said Williams, maintaining a traditional audit might be more appropriate. “We have nothing to hide. Nobody tried to cover this up. We went to the police and we went to the town.”
Police first spoke with Williams, who reported the questionable financial practices to authorities. Williams believed that Tenhave would hold onto the cash collected at concession stands, and then go through the checks written to the MYA baseball program, look for checks that added up to a similar amount of money as the concession cash and then deposit the checks to show that a similar amount had been deposited, according to the police report.

It appeared, according to Williams’ testimony, that Tenhave would pocket the excess cash, which was never deposited into the MYA baseball account.“We have made a bunch of endeavors to ensure procedures and transparency were in place as soon as we realized something was amiss,” said Williams. “I agree there should be accountability, but this could be maybe overkill with a forensic audit. We don’t feel we are being defiant.”
The town provides about $70,000 a year to the MYA, and also maintains several ball fields for the organization.That $70,000 in assistance from the town could be in jeopardy if the MYA executive board does not agree to the new terms of the contract, according to three town councilors.

“They are balking on doing an audit. This is ridiculous,” Councilor Dan Dwyer said this week. “They are so arrogant with their power and too busy running the organization that they think they can do this without following the bylaws. There is truly something big that they are hiding.”

Both Dwyer, Boyd and Councilor David Yakuboff believe the MYA should do everything it can to clear its name — and its financial records.“There has to be a conspiracy to hide the facts since they are still hesitating on this. This is their last chance. We are not fooling around,” added Dwyer, who is also frustrated that a closed-door meeting was reportedly held by MYA officials last week when at least one MYA member claims to have been turned away.
Tenhave, who has not commented on the allegations, denied taking any money from the MYA baseball program, according to the police report, adding if he could review the bookkeeping records he could explain certain actions.

khoughton@newstote.com


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