County police arrested the head of the Roger Carter Neighborhood Center in Ellicott City yesterday and charged the county Recreation and Parks Department employee with stealing payroll checks totaling $4,330.50.
Alan Garard Bacon, 35, of the 9400 block of Merryrest Road in Columbia was accused of cashing 18 checks made out to Anthony D. Coleman, a worker in the county Bureau of Highways. Coleman is named inthe charging documents as Bacon's brother.
Bacon, facing 18 counts of theft, could not be reached for comment on the charges. Bacon was released yesterday on his own recognizance. He had not been at work all of last week, when he reportedly called in sick.
Police say Coleman, who previously had worked part-timein the Recreation and Parks Department, complained to the county Department of Finance that his recently issued 1990 W-2, the form that shows earnings and taxes withheld, indicated that he had been paid several thousand dollars more than he knew he had earned from the county.
After the Finance Department told Coleman that it had issued numerous checks in his name for parks and recreation work, Coleman replied that his only government work had been for the Highways Bureau, police say.
Parks department employment records show Coleman as a full-time employee until last September. Public Works records show him working for the Bureau of Highways -- which is where Coleman says he worked -- at the same time.
The parks department has nearly as many seasonal employees as it has regular employees. For convenience, the names of returning seasonal employees are not removed from the county's computerized payroll list.
Local supervisors, such as Bacon, indicate on spreadsheets which of their seasonal employees actually work each week, noting the days and number of hours they work.
The spreadsheet information is then fed into the payroll computer, and checks bearing the employees' names are delivered to the supervisor. The supervisor hands the checks to the employees.
All but three of the checks in question were for less than $300. They were issued from about Jan. 5 to Sept. 7, police said, and ranged from a low of $93.19to a high of $355.69.
County records showed that all 18 checks hadbeen cashed at the Valley View Inn in Ellicott City. The owner and an employee there told police that "for the past couple of years," Bacon has been coming into the inn around the middle and end of each month to cash not only his check, but those of three or four other county employees.
According to charging documents, the clerk told police that Bacon signed his own name below that of the employee and that she recalled seeing Coleman's name on several checks. She said she cashed the checks individually, put the cash from each check into a separate brown envelope with the proper pay stub, and handed the envelopes to Bacon.
A police examiner reviewed all of the checks in question and determined that the Alan Bacon signatures on each were the same, police said.
The maximum penalty for a theft under $300 is $500, 18 months in prison or both. The maximum penalty for a theft above$300 is $1,000, 15 years in prison or both. A continuing pattern of thefts also carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 15 years in prison, or both.
"This is a tragedy for everybody involved," Jeff Bourne, director of recreation and parks, said yesterday. He noted that Bacon always has been well-regarded in the department.
County administrator Buddy Roogow said yesterday he could not reveal what, if any, personnel action had been taken against Bacon. He did say that "as a general rule," he, acting in his role as the county's chief personnel officer, would "suspend without pay or terminate outright" any employee accused of a felony or theft.
Police say their investigation is continuing.
Bacon, who has worked in various jobs in the Recreation and Parks Department since 1986, was paid $14.93 an hour to run theCarter Neighborhood Center.
Friends who have known Bacon since hewas a child growing up in the county's Hilltop housing project expressed disbelief that he had been charged with theft.
"He is such a good person," said Dottie Moore, director of the community action council. "I am completely traumatized.
"I feel sad, angry and confused all at once. He is like a son to me. It is just tragic."