Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Former Binghamton Parks and Recreation Director John Whalen stole at least $50,000 in taxpayer funds, city officials said. And the number could grow.
Whalen pleaded not guilty Thursday to grand larceny in the second degree. He is accused of stealing at least $50,000 from the city of Binghamton.
He had been an employee with the city for 42 years. He was scheduled to retire in March of this year, but resigned in November after being approached about the theft, according to Mayor Matthew Ryan.
Ryan declined to elaborate on how he thinks Whalen stole the money, but said it involves several accounts within the Parks and Recreation department.
"Some irregularities in how he was conducting business became apparent in October." Mayor Ryan said. "After some investigation and looking into some records in November, we discovered that we thought we had enough information to show that he had indeed committed a crime. Once confronted with that, he resigned."
Investigators can only search records within the past five years based on the statute of limitations for this charge. Investigators are looking into records since 2007, but Ryan believes the theft has been going on for longer than the statute allows.
"Sometimes you catch them sooner, sometimes you catch them later," Mayor Ryan said. "I think once all the facts come out in this case you'll see why maybe this went on for a little longer than we would obviously have hoped."
Ryan says the city is looking to fill a new internal controls and auditing position to begin in July. He believes this will help eliminate employees from stealing money from the city.
"It's a sad day for him and his family I'm sure," Ryan said. "But when you steal from the city, when you steal from the public trust. You're going to get prosecuted."
The investigation continues with the Broome County District Attorney's office and the Binghamton Police Department. The charge of grand larceny in the second degree is a class "C" felony. If convicted, Whalen could spend 15 years in prison.
Grand larceny in the second degree includes stealing property valued more than $50,000. Regardless of amount, the charge can also include the use or abuse of a position as a public official or causing damage to property.