A longtime Florida high school baseball coach abruptly resigned rather than face charges of a depressingly pitiful and troubling alleged crime: Stealing funds from his cash-strapped school's concession stands at baseball games and funneling them into a personal bank account.
As first reported by the Lakeland Ledger's Polk Preps high school sports site, and followed upon by Tampa CBS affiliate WSTP and a handful of other area outlets, Winter Haven (Fla.) High baseball coach David Saliba resigned earlier in April when he was made aware of the findings of an internal investigation which showed that Saliba had been taking the bulk of proceeds from his school's baseball concession stands and investing them in a personal bank account.
Across a three-year span, it's estimated that Saliba illegally kept as much as $20,000 from stolen concession proceeds and sponsor funds which were diverted from funding for the baseball program into Saliba's personal account.
Here's how the Ledger, which first obtained details of the investigation into Saliba's actions, described the investigation into the coach's alleged illegal practices.
Saliba "operated the concession sales at Winter Haven High School as a personal venture," according to a memo prepared by Carol Matthews, senior internal auditor for the School District. An investigative report released Monday was obtained by The Ledger via a public records request.
The laundry list of violations Saliba allegedly committed as part of his "serious misconduct" included all the following and more, according to Polk Preps.
• Knowingly failing to follow established procedures for handling and depositing funds from activities at the high school
• Giving false information during the investigation into his actions
• Intentionally entering into a contract to invest significant school funds without authorization and without defined procedure
The sudden release of investigation findings brought an abrupt end to one of the longest prep baseball careers in all of Florida. Saliba had served as Winter Haven's head baseball coach for 29 of his 30 years at the school. The coach was a significant figure in the Tampa baseball community up until he resigned on April 12, smack dab in the middle of the Winter Haven baseball season. The team is currently preparing for the forthcoming baseball playoffs without its longtime coach, who continues to argue that some of the claims against him are wholly inaccurate.
"I've received the accusation and the position of the School Board, and while I don't agree with a lot of their findings, I can't comment on them," Saliba told Polk Preps. "The truth will come out a little bit later."
Regardless of when that truth comes out, it will be too late for Saliba to take any part in the remainder of the 2012 season, which will now see the baseball team's concession stand run by the school's cheerleading squad, beginning on Wednesday.
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