Stealing from kids is despicable

Jan 07, 2013

Of all the scurrilous deeds there are out there to commit, those that target children provoke a special type of anger.

While acts that cause physical and emotional damage to children are among the most despicable, those that disillusion the next generation would have to rank near the top as well.

That includes incidents where parents or volunteers abuse the trust of the youngsters who look up to them by stealing the very program they are pretending to help.

Unfortunately, the most recent incident where an adult is accused of embezzling money from a youth softball league is just one of many that have occurred in the county through the years.

Youth sporting leagues or teams, whether they are school-related or simply a community effort, have been easy targets for individuals masquerading as upstanding citizens while using their cover to bilk thousands from unsuspecting families.

It appears to be something that can be pulled off rather easily. For the most part, parents and youth sports volunteers are the salt of the earth and their efforts to help out are labors of love. Because that's the standard, few suspect ulterior motives, and when one individual steps up to volunteer to handle all that needs to be done, none are suspicious. In fact, most parents are relieved that someone seems willing to carry a heavier burden as that is a bit less for them to fit into an already packed schedule.

It's at that point when a program can become unraveled. The checks and balances are gone, there's no clear policies or procedures in place and it is difficult to sort through the aftermath once others realize that something went terribly wrong.

In the case where tens of thousands of dollars went missing from the Pisgah High School football program years ago, even though it was clear where the money went, charges couldn't be brought because there weren't by-laws in place to address the situation.

It is unfortunate when missing funds are the trigger to focus increased interest on organization or nonprofit management and financial issues. A way to get ahead of the situation, and to protect board members in the process, is to adopt by-laws and then follow them. Many of the regional or state organizations with which a local group is affiliated already have boiler-plate by-laws, or a quick Internet search should reveal a document that could be adopted. Such precautions will not only protect the program, but can protect organization leaders who could be personally sued if something goes awry.

All those serving on boards or commissions have numerous responsibilities. One of their primary jobs is to follow the money.