School district to change oversight on booster donations

Winter Haven, Florida - There's new information involving child porn accusations and a Polk County football coach who took his own life. 10 News has learned police aren't the only ones looking into whether Coach Thomas LeJeune had inappropriate contact with students so is the school district he worked for.

While the district isn't talking about that investigation, they are looking to change the way they oversee booster club dollars since Coach LeJeune was also accused of stealing thousands of dollars before he took his own life in December.

Wendy Enns says she's glad the Polk County School District is taking a closer look at booster club donations now, but she wonders why the delay?

"My understanding is the football program brings in a lot of money and it profits more from it than any of the other sports programs. I know that with my daughter being on the soccer team and not being able to afford new uniforms," she says. "I was just curious to know why it took so long for someone to actually do something -- investigate."

Just two years ago David Saliba, a long time baseball coach at Winter Haven High School, was also under the microscope. He retired after nearly 30 years as a respected coach and teacher. While a school district investigation claimed he put $20,000 from concession stand sales into his personal bank account, he denied any wrongdoing and said the funds were deposited into an American Legion account. The State Attorney's Office said it did not have evidence to charge him with theft.

Saliba tells 10 News he now coaches at Sante Fe Catholic High School and says the State Attorney's Office investigated and found, "no money missing."

We spoke with Don Bridges by phone. He's the athletic director for the Polk County School District. He says the district met Tuesday morning to look at developing new, more extensive countywide policies and procedures for overseeing booster club revenue and expenditures. He says right now the district only looks at high school financial reports at the end of the year, but they'd like to start using a program at all the high schools that allows for more detailed record-keeping that the district could review more often.

When 10 News mentioned the allegations of mishandling of funds in reference to Coach LeJeune he said he could not speak on the actual investigation but added, "We're trying to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Madison Wells plays basketball at Winter Haven High School and says, "I feel like it's great that someone is actually looking out for us and making sure that we have enough money for our needs."

Meanwhile, Bridges says high school booster clubs are under the direction of each high school principal, not the district. He told us Winter Haven High School's booster club has already been reorganized because of the incident with Coach LeJeune. 10 News made several attempts to speak with Principal Gina Williams but as of Tuesday evening she hadn't returned our phone calls.


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