More than $100,000 missing from Lakeland Parks & Recreation budget

- Three employees have resigned or retired and a manager is fighting not to be terminated after an audit discovered that $117,000 is missing from the Lakeland Parks and Recreation budget.

The missing money was collected at Simpson Park over the last 5 years.

“We had a total breakdown in cash handling procedures,” Kevin Cook, spokesman for the City of Lakeland told FOX 13. “

A few weeks ago, someone at Simpson Park deposited a check in the wrong account which spurred an audit.

“We sent a team to go into the supervisor of Simpson Park’s office,” said Cook. “They started looking in drawers and files, and they found checks and cash that were never deposited.”

Cook said the deeper the team looked, the bigger the problem they discovered.

There has been a shake-up in the wake of the scandal.

Frank Gant, a recreation leader, who made about $29,000, has retired.

Gant’s supervisor, Marquis Roberts, who was paid about $58,000, resigned.

Robert Glass, superintendent of recreation, whose salary was about $96,000, also retired.

Mindi Fitch, who held the title of fiscal operation for Lakeland Parks and Rec, is on paid administrative leave, and is fighting to keep her job.

“She discovered the problem,” said her attorney Robert Grizzard. “She is now threatened with termination for something she had no responsibility for doing.”

Cook tells a different story. He says city hall was already investigating the situation when Fitch reported the discrepancies. He also says a substantial part of her job was “reconciling, reviewing, analyzing expense and revenue accounts.”

Lakeland Police have launched a criminal investigation which will be looking at possible theft or fraud.

“They’re reviewing documents, sending out subpoenas, looking at records,” explained police department spokesman, Sgt. Gary Gross.

Gross says it could take a while before the probe wraps up.

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