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PARKS & REC DUO BACK IN SWING

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The top two people at the Red Bank Parks & Recreation Department, whose names were curiously absent from the borough council reappointments list on Jan. 1, have gotten the seal of approval to remain in their positions.

Director Bob Evans and Assistant Director Tomora Young were reappointed by the council last week, following an oral report by Councilman John Curley on efforts to address issues raised by a recent audit of the department.

Citing personnel policies, borough officials are still rather vague about what the holdup was.

But redbankgreen has learned that the audit, completed in October, turned up some bookkeeping mismanagement issues in the department.

There was no suggestion of any type of malfeasance, Curley said.

“There were difficult problems of accounting procedures, and that’s about all I can say,” Curley told redbankgreen.

The audit, by auditor David Kaplan, contained recommendations that the three council members of the Parks & Rec committee — Curley, Kaye Ernst and RJ Bifani — looked into, along with Administrator Stanley Sickels, Public Works Director Gary Watson, and Attorney Tom Hall.

“We reviewed the policies and procedures,” Curley said last Monday night. “We feel we have a good workforce there. And we are putting forth stringent guidelines laid out by our auditor.”

When we asked Evans for his comment on the audit, he told us he knew nothing about it. “All I can says is that I’ve been bringing a lot of money in, sponsor-wise,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good things going on in town.”

Otherwise, Evans declined to comment, as did Young.

“Bob does a magnificent job fundraising,” said Curley, echoing earlier comments by parents whose children have been involved in athletic and other programs run through the department. “Terrific job.”

redbankgreen has requested a copy of the audit, but hasn’t seen it. Sickels told us that the document was created as part of the review of fiscal policies done annually and due for release in May or June. But the section covering Parks & Rec was expedited, Sickels said, as part of a “special focus” effort. He said he would check with the borough attorney to determine if the report is a public document and releasable ahead of the full audit.

Meanwhile, the assignment to Parks & Rec was Curley’s first committee job since being ousted as Finance Committee chairman last August in the infamous “why don’t you take me down to Broad Street and hang me” incident.

In that case, council Democrats led by then-Mayor Ed McKenna blamed Curley for failing to properly oversee the Finance Department, which was found by an audit to be rife with fiscal mismanagement. At one of several raucous meetings, McKenna tossed Curley from the committee.

Stung by that experience, Curley was clearly wary of being tagged with blame for any Parks & Rec mismanagement that predated his assignment, he told us.

“This is something I just walked into in January, so this is something I inherited, and I don’t want to be accused of having caused the problem, like I was so unfairly accused in the Finance Department situation,” Curley said.

“I’m not there to play politics. We’re there to create the best program possible and to run a department efficiently.”

Evans will report to Watson, who answers to Sickels, Curley said. There had been some question about this, we’re told.

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