Memorial football

Memorial football players, in white, during a football game last fall. This week, prosecutors said not  criminal charges will be filed in connection with a lengthy police investigation into  funding irregularities involving high school athletics.

No one will be prosecuted in connection with financial mismanagement and irregularities uncovered in an audit of Memorial High School athletics fundraisers, according to the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office.

Shawn Sweeney, the first assistant in the county attorney’s Manchester office, said prosecutors under former County Attorney Michael Conlon made the decision not to charge anyone. He said Manchester police turned the case over to Conlon’s office more than a year ago.

“The evidence contained in the file just didn’t add up (to getting a conviction),” Sweeney said.

In 2018, Manchester police began investigating fundraising activities associated with Manchester Memorial High School athletics, especially the football program.

The investigation began after a forensic audit determined that $11,000 could not be accounted for, according to previous news accounts.

The audit uncovered sloppy record-keeping and cash-handling, unapproved fundraisers, unsanctioned rewards for top fundraising athletes, and the possibility that proceeds were diverted for personal use.

Last week, Manchester police said the investigation was ongoing and in the hands of the Hillsborough County Attorney.

But Sweeney said the case has been closed for lack of enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He would not name any potential defendants.

“If we’re not prosecuting them, then we are certainly not going to publicize their names,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said no cases were presented to a grand jury for indictment.

He stressed that former Memorial athletic coordinator Ray Connolly was never the subject of the investigation. Connolly, a Memorial social studies teacher, initially alerted school officials to problems with the fundraisers.

But he was later terminated as athletic coordinator and came under suspicion in the school community, his union president has said.

Late last year, Connolly won his case against the Manchester School District, and an arbitrator ordered that he be awarded back pay and be allowed to return to his job this fall. Connolly has announced his resignation from Memorial.

Conlon, county attorney in 2019 and 2020, lost a bid for reelection last November.

In a text to a reporter, Conlon said he can’t speak about the case because he does not have access to the files. He referred questions to the current county attorney, John Coughlin.

Saturday, April 17, 2021
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