Investigation launched after $117K of taxpayers money goes missing from Lakeland recreation center

LAKELAND, Fla. — Lower than expected revenues were the first red flag the City of Lakeland noticed.  So, they ordered an audit of the finances at Simpson Park Recreation Complex uncovering a mountain of missing cash, checks, and money orders.

“We have a $117,000 that’s missing, so of course, we’ve got an administrative investigation and a parallel criminal investigation,” Kevin Cook the Director of Communications for the City of Lakeland told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska.

“What do you tell the taxpayers about $117,000 missing?” Paluska asked Cook.

“I’m a citizen and a taxpayer and a City of Lakeland employee I’m concerned I know you are concerned and we are looking into it,” Cook said.

The five-year audit found that $91,093 in cash, $25,220 in checks, and $800 in money orders was unaccounted for totaling $117,113.

“It is kind of disappointing to hear that, cause to tell you the truth, this is really a great center for the community,” Donovan Graham said.

Graham has been coming to the recreation center to exercise for the past seven years.  He wants to know if the money went missing by accident or if it was stolen.

“We find the staff to be very good,” Graham said. “But, as far as I’m concerned if there is money missing then we need to get to the root of it cause this could be money better spent to help the center and help this community.”

According to the audit, some records were tossed after suffering water damage during Hurricane Irma.  The city has no clue what those records contained.

The city said a total of four employees managed daily cash operations at Simpson Park.

Cook said three of the employees implicated in the cash mishandling audit have resigned or retired.

They were identified as Recreation Leader Rashawn Gant; Recreation Supervisor Marquis Roberts; Superintendent of Recreation Robert Glass.

A lawyer for Fiscal Operations Manager Mindi Fitch said she has the right to due process, did nothing wrong and will be fighting any disciplinary action. 

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