MERRIMACK — Though authorities decided not to prosecute the Merrimack Youth Association’s treasurer after a lengthy investigation into the youth baseball organization’s finances, two town councilors called Tuesday for the association’s president to resign.
“I think some of the top members should step down, and I believe the executive board needs some new people in place to start fresh,” Town Councilor Daniel Dwyer said. “I think Terry Benhardt owes it to the organization to allow a new leader to come in and make things right.”
Town Councilor David Yakuboff echoed those comments.
“I would like to see him resign,” Yakuboff said of MYA President Terence Benhardt. “I question who else on the executive board knew there were problems with the finances. The numbers don’t add up, and they didn’t add up three years ago either. To this day, there are no financial controls in place.”
Less than two weeks ago, the Merrimack Town Council received a detailed, 17-page police report highlighting a 2012 investigation into whether Bert Tenhave, the MYA treasurer, was possibly mishandling funds from the sports program.
Following a six-month police investigation, representatives from the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office determined they would not prosecute Tenhave on any criminal charges.
“After a review of this case, the evidence indicates that Mr. Tenhave likely withheld some money from (MYA), however, proving that he intentionally stole the money or had the intent to permanently deprive (MYA) of the money will be difficult,” Nicole Thorspecken, assistant county attorney, wrote in a letter to Merrimack police officials last November.
Several months prior, Tenhave, of Shelburne Road, was relieved from his duties as MYA treasurer. Tenhave returned more than $3,000 owed to the MYA to police officers, but only after authorities began investigating the MYA’s financial records.
“Their books are a mess,” Yakuboff said, adding it was a red flag when the MYA didn’t initially agree to an audit last year when asked by councilors.
Dwyer agreed, saying MYA leaders should have been willing to cooperate.
“Instead, they let a rogue treasurer destroy decades of a good reputation and a good organization,” said Dwyer.
He said town officials are refusing to issue their annual $70,000 contribution to the organization unless better financial practices are put into place and an audit is performed. A new contract with MYA is expected to be signed by the end of the month agreeing to the new terms, and an audit will be completed promptly, said Dwyer. He said it is unfortunate that a forensic audit could cost the town about $30,000.
“We want the books investigated. For one thing, we really don’t feel like the (MYA) leadership has taken this seriously since the money has been returned and (Tenhave) made up the difference,” Dwyer said.
The most important thing, according to Yakuboff, is that the children of Merrimack still have a place to go and play baseball in the upcoming season.
“This is not about the persecution of one person. This is about making sure the kids get their money to play,” he added.
According to a police report obtained by the Union Leader, MYA’s Paul Williams told police that Tenhave would hold onto the cash collected at concession stands, and then go through the checks written to MYA baseball, looking for checks that added up to a similar amount. He would then deposit the checks, Williams told police.
During an interview last summer, Tenhave told police that he would keep concession cash and use it later to pay for repairs and supplies, but that the money owed at the end of the fiscal year would be returned to MYA, the report states.
Only after being questioned by police did Tenhave initially return $1,500 from leftover umpire payments and concession sales, and a second payment of $1,870 that he said was found in a bag underneath a copy machine at his home office.
“Bert denies taking any monies from the (MYA), and said once again that if he could go over the paperwork he could explain why he did certain things and where the money would be to account for it,” detective James Sullivan wrote in the report.
Police also contacted the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, but were told that unless the loss exceeded $100,000, the AG’s office would not look into the matter.
“I thought that was ludicrous,” Yakuboff said Tuesday, adding the town council was disappointed the investigation would not be pursued further.
Benhardt and Tenhave did not return phone calls seeking comment.