The dark shadow cast by an investigation of Clustered Spires Golf Club has started to lift.
The city of Frederick and the Frederick Police Department launched dual investigations into the municipally owned golf club in February 2015 based on evidence of possible employee theft and mismanagement. Donald Frost, the former club manager and PGA golf professional, faces theft charges in Frederick County Circuit Court.
The chain of events connected to those allegations has continued to ripple through the city, raising doubts about transparency, accountability and even if the city should be running a golf club.
But the scandal has also led to what some describe as a much-needed overhaul in staffing, policies and oversight mechanisms for the club. Employees and elected officials point to these changes as evidence of the city’s commitment to preventing problems from occurring again, or at least detecting them earlier.
Investigation and fallout
Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak first presented documents to the city and police in February 2015 detailing management and policy problems at the club. The documents, which were also provided to The Frederick News-Post, indicated that Frost held private lessons and clinics during city work hours and did not reimburse the city for advertising for his private clinics. Both of these actions violated his city contract.
Frost resigned, and he is now charged with two felony theft schemes. Charging documents alleged that he pocketed more than $14,000 in grip sales from the pro shop and resold city golf balls to a private vendor for personal profit.
Receipts also showed large amounts of voided cash register transactions. A note in the documents instructed employees to correct shortages in the cash drawer by voiding transactions, referring them to “Mo or Scott” for help — then-head pro Maureen Barolet and assistant pro Scott Peterson.
Barolet no longer works at the club, although the exact date and reason why she left have not been made available.
Roelkey Myers, deputy director of the parks and recreation department, whose job included oversight of the club and Frost, has also been let go.
In July, the city aldermen approved Mayor Randy McClement’s recommendation to fire Myers, who had worked for the city for 22 years. City officials declined to comment on the reason for his firing.
In response to more than a dozen informal inquiries and several Maryland Public Information Act requests from The News-Post over the last year, the city has refused to provide information on if or when its investigation ended. In an email on Friday, city spokeswoman Susan Harding again declined to comment, calling it a personnel matter.
The Frederick Police Department has been similarly tight-lipped about its own investigation. Lt. Clark Pennington, a department spokesman, has said details will not be released until the criminal investigation has been closed. As of last fall, the police were still investigating Frost and the course.
Pennington did not return two phone calls and email messages this week asking for an update on the status of the investigation.
In the wake of this turmoil, the city has filled employee vacancies and enacted new policies intended to ensure oversight of sales and cash register use.
Staffing changes are as follows:
- Peterson, the part-time assistant golf pro, was made acting general manager immediately after Frost’s resignation. He was promoted to the position permanently in November.
- Bob Smith was named deputy parks and recreation director, also in November. Smith had served for 19 years with the department as recreation supervisor.
- Joe Lindstrom was hired as the city’s risk manager in November. Lindstrom, who has more than 17 years of experience in risk management and safety, will conduct risk assessments and audits with various departments to ensure greater oversight and accountability.
- A full-time assistant golf professional position was advertised on the city website earlier this year. The deadline for applications was Thursday.
New protocols for cash register use are:
- Employees must log in with an identification number before ringing in a transaction. This also applies to voided transactions.
- All voided transactions are tracked with the name of the employee, the amount and reason for the void. That information is sent to the club manager and the finance department.
- Total cash drawer amounts are reviewed three times per day — once at the beginning of each of the two shifts and at the end of the day. Averages and shortages are reported to the club manager and to the finance and parks and recreation departments.
- Sales of pro shop items, lessons, camps and clinics and other fees are each tied to a specific button on the register. The miscellaneous sales button cannot be used except in special circumstances. Any use of this button must be recorded with the reason for its use, amount of the transaction and the employee who used it.
Other changes include a requirement that the golf pro and assistant pro track work hours by clocking in and out each shift. Other employees were already required to do this. Golf professionals are prohibited from giving private lessons or clinics while on city time.
Learning from mistakes
In a phone interview Wednesday, Peterson described the implementation of the policy changes as a “huge success.”
Since the procedures were put in place in May, the miscellaneous sales button has never been used and shortages have been few and far between, he said.
Smith echoed Peterson’s praise for the new system.
“Obviously, it’s not going to be perfect every day,” Smith said. “But if we’re off, now, we’re going to know why.”
If and when problems arise, they will be caught early. That’s part of why the city hired Lindstrom, who will monitor risks related to all city departments and funds, said Nikki Bamonti, the mayor’s executive assistant.
Lindstrom also described his role as one of oversight. He has started initial risk assessment analysis of all city departments, although he has not yet focused on specific funds or areas, he said Friday.
Most importantly, according to Smith, is the impact of these measures as a whole on transparency, accountability and communication between city departments.
Kuzemchak agreed. “At this point, I think we’ve done what we need to do,” she said.