A new ballgame for Dover Little League

20dsn Dover Little League 002 by .

The sign at the entry to Dover Little League at Schutte Park. A new board and officers have taken over following a scandal in which the former president was indicted on five felony charges in connection with alleged misuse of league funds. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — Beset by financial turmoil, the past few months haven’t been good for the Dover Little League.

A new executive board of directors is charting a new course around the basepaths, however.

President Jim Pappas has a message for the community.

“We’re going back to the rules we were supposed to be playing by, but were not playing by,” he said.

Last month, former Dover Little League President William M. Berry was indicted on five felony charges regarding alleged misuse of the organization’s finances last summer. He is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

William Berry

William Berry

According to Mr. Pappas, a Dover league treasurer at the time detected potential financial irregularities. Mr. Berry resigned his position, Mr. Pappas said, and league leadership decided to take concerns to the Dover Police Department.

While that case proceeds through the legal system, league membership is pushing ahead to earn a more successful 2016 season — the organization’s 62nd overall — and beyond.

“This is a completely new executive board, which has an enthusiasm that was on the board years ago but went away,” Mr. Pappas said. “We have some new faces now, along with others who were involved years ago but got out of it and have now come back.”

The new board of directors includes Mr. Pappas, Jim Velazquez, Steve Newman, Christyn Small, Jeremy Drago,

MISSON STATEMENT Following is the Dover Little League mission statement: “The objective of Dover Little League is to implant firmly in boys and girls of the community the ideas of good sportsmanship, honesty, loyalty, courage, and reverence, so they may be finer, stronger, and happier boys and girls and will grow to be good, clean, and healthy men and women. “We will provide a program to all the boys and girls regardless of race, ethnicity, or creed that is competitive and educational in both baseball and softball. The objective will be achieved by providing supervised and structured games. The winning of a game is secondary to the primary objective of molding our future men and women.”

MISSON STATEMENT
Following is the Dover Little League mission statement:
“The objective of Dover Little League is to implant firmly in boys and girls of the community the ideas of good sportsmanship, honesty, loyalty, courage, and reverence, so they may be finer, stronger, and happier boys and girls and will grow to be good, clean, and healthy men and women.
“We will provide a program to all the boys and girls regardless of race, ethnicity, or creed that is competitive and educational in both baseball and softball. The objective will be achieved by providing supervised and structured games. The winning of a game is secondary to the primary objective of molding our future men and women.”

Brian Turner, John Francia, Daphne Davis, Mark Boller, Garry Courtney, Sean Christiansen, Horacio Mejias, Claude Dabney Jr., Claude Dabney Sr., Betty Greco, Glen Wilhelm, Bill McEvoy, Chuck Goehringer, Sally Velazquez, Maggie Glenn, Pat McPhail and Ed Coker.

A proper system of checks and balances is now operational, Mr. Pappas said. “I will not spend a penny without Dover Little League’s approval.

“It’s basic financial responsibility and we’re gatekeepers for the community,” he said.

Also, competitive bids for services and snack bar providers are now the rule, and vendors must submit paperwork to take part in the process, Mr. Pappas said.

“A lot of contractors and former vendors were not vetted properly,” he said.

Educational material available

While infrequent, Little League International spokesman Brian McClintock said among 7,000 local organizations around the world “situations like this do occur in a few communities every year.”

Little League International said it frequently provides educational material regarding financial operations to local leagues.

“This is a large part of our in-person training events, such as Little League Roadshows, that are hosted in communities, and an important part of our training and educational materials that we provide for free to our local leagues,” Mr. McClintock said.

20dsn Dover LL recovering1 by .

Among the new Dover Little League Board of Directors for the upcoming season are Christyn Small, Jim Pappas, Brian Turner, Ed Coker, Steve Newman, Betty Greco, Pat McPhail, and Jim Velazquez. (Submitted photo/Dover Little League)

“We also include best practices in our Chartering and Marketing Toolkit and in the operating policies.”

Little League International recently launched a free education and training website — LittleLeagueU.org — that has articles to help local league volunteers with the financial operation of their league, Mr. McClintock said.

Katie Burnham Laverty, president of the Society for Nonprofit Organizations, advised members of any volunteer organization to separate duties.

“The practice consists of not having the same person collect the money, deposit the money and write checks or pay bills,” she said. “If this is not followed, the opportunity to embezzle or commit fraud is very high. All volunteer organizations are encouraged to follow this practice.”

More scrutiny should come from an oversight committee, “not made up of the individuals who have direct contact with billing, receivables, deposits and bill payment,” Ms. Laverty said.

Acknowledging that financial issues are not a huge problem in volunteer organizations, it does occur, she said.

“Many times it goes unreported so that the organizations reputation in the community is not hurt,” she said.

“But separation of duties is a simple practice to put in place, and has proven to prevent the temptation of embezzlement, as well as its actual occurrence.”

While most of the thousands of volunteer run organizations maintain adequate finances, Ms. Lavery said, “misuse is very small, and when discovered, unfortunately taints the public impression of the broad spectrum of nonprofit organizations”

Some tips offered

National Council of Nonprofits Vice President Jennifer Chandler offered the following tips for all-volunteer organizations:

• Put in place a “hotline” or other process so that if someone suspects mismanagement of funds they can report it to the board of directors of the nonprofit, or another responsible party.

In particular, identify the role of board members in connection with responding to or investigating allegations of

TREASURER'S DUTIES According to Little League International, organization treasurers have nine principle responsibilities: • Prepare an annual budget to include all revenues, i.e. registration fees and fundraising activities based on the membership size of the prior year. Includes: expected expenses of the league year including uniforms, field maintenance, fundraising expenses, charter feel, and insurance. • Monthly Treasurer’s Report including bank balances and income statement. • Submit annual financial report to the regional officer. • Maintain and reconcile all bank accounts and pay league expenditures. • Oversee and reconcile accounting of all revenue sources. • Responsible for all day-to-day transactions and documentation of the league. Monitor and deposit all revenues including registration fees and fund-raisers. • Maintain federal group tax exemption as illustrated in Operations How-To Guide Tab. • Prepare documentation for independent audit, either by tax professional or audit committee of board of directors. • Must submit an annual tax return to the IRS (local and state returns as necessary).

TREASURER’S DUTIES
According to Little League International, organization treasurers have nine principle responsibilities:
• Prepare an annual budget to include all revenues, i.e. registration fees and fundraising activities based on the membership size of the prior year. Includes: expected expenses of the league year including uniforms, field maintenance, fundraising expenses, charter feel, and insurance.
• Monthly Treasurer’s Report including bank balances and income statement.
• Submit annual financial report to the regional officer.
• Maintain and reconcile all bank accounts and pay league expenditures.
• Oversee and reconcile accounting of all revenue sources.
• Responsible for all day-to-day transactions and documentation of the league. Monitor and deposit all revenues including registration fees and fund-raisers.
• Maintain federal group tax exemption as illustrated in Operations How-To Guide Tab.
• Prepare documentation for independent audit, either by tax professional or audit committee of board of directors.
• Must submit an annual tax return to the IRS (local and state returns as necessary).

fraud or misuse of funds.

• Orient all volunteers (including board members) at the beginning of their tenure about the policies that exist for handling cash, checks, contributions etc.

• Help board members and volunteers be aware of what types of actions constitute unethical, fraudulent conduct, including conflicts of interest, and demonstrate the cost of unethical conduct to the nonprofit: lost revenues, negative publicity, perhaps loss of affiliation with a national body such as the national Little League or Girl Scouts, as well as a decrease in morale, not to mention a potential decrease in good will in the community.

• Decide in advance the nonprofit will pursue criminal charges against anyone who engages in fraud and make sure volunteers and others know it.

(Check with the nonprofit’s insurance professionals because often insurance coverage is dependent upon the nonprofit involving law enforcement in prosecuting criminal behavior.)

• Internal controls: include a very fundamental policy to “segregate duties” – A “segregation of duties” policy for an all-volunteer organization would typically require that the process of receiving money/contributions is centralized – The person who receives funds must log them into the nonprofit’s financial records, but s/he is not the same person who is responsible for depositing the checks or reviewing the accounts.

Similarly, the person(s) who review the financial accounts of the organization (typically the volunteer finance committee) should not be the same person(s) who have control of the deposits/checkbook.

All are susceptible

Ms. Chandler said small, all-volunteer organizations are no more susceptible to fraud or misuse of funds than others.

20dsn Dover Little League 003 by .

Empty bleachers sit along the Dover Little League concession stand. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

“However, because their budgets tend to be smaller they may experience disproportionately larger losses when the worst case scenario occurs,” she said.

Also, nonprofits and for-profits businesses are equally susceptible to fraud, Ms. Chandler said.

“The nature of the beast is that when you combine the opportunity to steal money with a lack of oversight, that scenario is so tempting for some people that they take advantage of it,” she said. “This can happen anywhere. Putting layers of accountability in place can deter or make it harder for people to steal.”

According to Ms. Chandler, all-volunteer organizations should evaluate their operations and “may have to think a bit like a potential thief in order to identify what opportunities the organization’s operations present to someone to get their hands on cash, falsify checks, create fictitious vendors, or create other schemes that would result in the misuse of the organization’s funds.

“And since all-volunteer organizations don’t have quite the same accountability in place that exists in most workplaces of a supervisor/supervisee relationship, they may need to intentionally put supervision in place that will create a barrier for misuse of funds.”

Concerned about publicity

At a regularly scheduled board meeting earlier this month, Dover Little League members were concerned by how ongoing publicity of the indictment might affect the area’s perception of how the organization is now functioning.

“Obviously we have a public-relations situation that needs to be addressed,” Mr. Pappas said.

20dsn Dover Little League 004 by .

An empty Big League field at Dover Little League in the off-season.
(Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

More league information is available at Doverll.com.

Currently, little operational funds are available, but Mr. Pappas said the league is getting by.

“It will be very tough to make it through the winter, but all our bills are covered now,” he said.

A sponsorship committee has been established and members are reaching out to the Dover business community in a quest for support.

Mr. Pappas said Dover Little League has been in contact with its property insurance company regarding any possible coverage of alleged theft of funds.

When the spring does arrive and it’s finally time to play ball, the league will host a few hundred 4- to 18-year-old baseball and softball players. The organization signed up about 440 players last spring.

The on-field product was good in 2015, considering Dover Little League’s Junior Baseball All-Stars won a state title, and a locally driven Big League team made it to the World Series in Easley, South Carolina.

For now, Mr. Pappas said the board consists of 22 members, each one who possesses special talents to help the league move ahead.

“We need the assistance of parents, kids, the community at large and any businesses,” Mr. Pappas said. “A lot of people have already said ‘Wow, that’s a shame it happened,’ anything I can to do help moving forward, please ask.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.