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Parks Commission dissolved pending embezzlement investigation

More funds are misused and potentially missing from the Benton Parks Department as the City Council dissolves the Parks Commission altogether.
BENTON, AR - More funds are misused and potentially missing from the Benton Parks Department as the City Council dissolves the Parks Commission altogether.

After a three month investigation into missing funds, the Benton City Council is dissolving the commission and taking control themselves.

Tyndall Park is popular in Benton. Travis Nelson has been spending lazy afternoons there since he was his grandkids age.

"I go way back," said Nelson. "As a child I used to swim when there was a pool back here."

But this park is also the playing field of an embezzlement investigation.

"Something isn't right," said council member Doug Stracener at a special council meeting Tuesday night. "I won't speculate what that is."

Tuesday, the Benton City Council dissolved the Parks Commission.
A three month investigation and audit report show at least $6,000 missing from the Tyndall Park concession stand.
Former Assistant Parks Director Kitty Smith claims she never stole any money from the stand and instead gave away free items.

"If I'm at fault for giving away a hot dog so be it," she said back in May when the commission put her on suspension. She was later fired.

Tuesday, the Benton City Council reviewed further reports showing even more funds are being misused in the department. For example, fuel costs logged by the parks department are way higher than those of any other department in the city including police who leave their cars running throughout the day.

"Too much trust was given to the Executive Director and as a result we have what we have now," said Stracener.

Despite pleas from Parks Commission members, the city council will now oversee all parks department decisions in an effort to Keep a closer eye on funds and hold those in charge of cash accountable.

"I am not placing blame on any of you," Mayor David Mattingly told the now dissolved commission.

But the mountain of mismanaged funds is not an easy task for the council to take on leaving everyone worried if council members don't take action soon, there may not be a place to play at all in the future.

"If Benton were to somehow or another let this park or other ones slide it would be a tragedy as far as I'm concerned," said Nelson.

The council plans to appoint aldermen to a Parks Committee to oversee and help run the department temporarily at their regularly scheduled meeting, Monday.
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