ABC13 obtains Galveston city manager's memo shedding light on investigation into Park Board worker

Nick Natario Image
Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Memo shows lack of cooperation in Galveston lifeguard fraud probe
According to new paperwork, the Galveston city manager expressed concerns surrounding the investigation of a Park Board member's alleged theft.

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- ABC13 obtained new documents showing that the Galveston police chief fears a park board worker's lack of cooperation may have resulted in considerably more money being stolen.

Concerns raised over Park Board employee investigation

The tide isn't the only thing creeping closer to Galveston Island. An investigation into possible stolen private and public dollars is getting more serious.

Last week, 13 Investigates learned a Galveston Park Board employee was accused of stealing from the Galveston Lifeguard Association, Inc. and possibly misusing city funds.

The board told ABC13 that the discovery was made a month ago. The Galveston Police Department also told ABC13 that a report was filed more than seven months ago.

New details from a memo ABC13 obtained show officers want more access, which may explain why no arrests have been made.

"It makes me wonder that there's not a lot of hanky panky going down in Galveston," city resident Terry Mcauliffe said.

Did lack of cooperation mean more money was stolen?

The memo was sent from City Manager Brian Maxwell to Galveston Park Board CEO Kimberly Danesi on May 30.

The city manager said the police chief "informed me that the initial investigation was stalled due to a lack of cooperation, and as a result, it appears the amount stolen has grown considerably and now possibly involves both public and private funds. He is concerned further delays will both hinder the investigation and possibly cause further losses."

The city manager added that they wanted to send a detective to the park board, but Galveston Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis turned them away.

"(Galveston PD) Chief (Doug) Balli offered to have Det. Larson report to the Park Board offices to begin investigating the matter of public funds being stolen, and the offer was declined. Chief Davis advised that he would get back to Chief Balli on the offer and that the Park Board was not yet prepared to make an official report," the memo states.

The city manager said the police chief expressed concerns about whether the Park Board planned to inform city leaders about the potential misuse of public funds.

"Chief Davis did not elaborate on whether it was the intention of Park Board management to notify the city; however, he did express concern in us knowing at this time for some reason," Maxwell wrote.

The full memo below:

What 13 Investigates knows about the alleged theft

The Park Board said $40,000 was gone from the Galveston Lifeguard Association. That money went missing from ATMs in Galveston, Lake Charles, Oklahoma, and Las Vegas.

After learning about this, the Park Board put the person on unpaid leave. Since then, it discovered possible misuse of a city credit card.

It's unclear how much city money may have been misused.

ABC13 asked Davis if the employee had access to the Lifeguard Association's credit card after the investigation started in December. ABC13 also asked why it took six months to notify the park board.

Eyewitness News has yet to hear back.

"It's kind of unbelievable," Mcauliffe said. "This is a tourist town, and with the lifeguards, everyone seems to be on top of it."

So far, authorities haven't arrested anyone.

The Park Board sent ABC13 a statement from Galveston Park Board CEO Danesi:

"On May 15, Galveston Park Board leadership was made aware of alleged credit card fraud by a Beach Patrol employee using a card held by Galveston Lifeguarding, Incorporated, a non-profit corporation. The Park Board took immediate action, placing the employee allegedly involved on unpaid administrative leave. While we are a separate organization, we decided it would be prudent to review our financial records to ensure all monies were properly accounted for. As a result, we learned this same employee may have misused a Beach Patrol credit card. We immediately cancelled the card to ensure it would not be used again. We are conducting our own internal investigation and will turn all pertinent information over to the Galveston Police Department."

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SEE MORE: $40,000 discovered missing from Galveston lifeguard group, triggering multiple investigations

A Galveston Park Board worker was placed on leave as an investigation looks into $40,000 gone from a non-profit group that the employee was tied to.