Questions aimed at donations to Dighton-Rehoboth marching band

REHOBOTH, Mass. (WPRI) — The 2014 trip by the Dighton-Rehoboth High School marching band to perform at Disney World was described as a success, but after an $18,070 bill wasn’t paid, parents and members of the band’s booster club went searching for answers and found what the current president says are more questions.

Melissa Enos became president of the Friends of the Dighton-Rehoboth Marching Band (FODRMB) in May of 2015, and by then there were already concerns swirling about why the Disney invoice wasn’t paid following the June 2014 event.

Enos said what was discovered were “questionable activities” connected to the 2014 Disney debt, including $19,000 in FODRMB money, deposited into the business account of the district’s former athletic director.

There were more questions about the booster club’s past four Internal Revenue Service filings. While the band is made up of students from two small towns, the cash raised is not nickels and dimes. In 2014, parents and others “worked very hard,” according to Enos, organizing dozens of fundraisers. And it eventually added up.

As reported on the organizations’ 990 form, the booster club pulled together just under $147,000 in total revenue in 2014.

But for Enos, that number raised concerns about IRS filings for 2012 and 2013, when total revenue was reported at about $3,000 each year. In 2011, revenue was reported at just under $73,000 and in the year before, the total was just over $97,000.

“We still cannot explain what happened during those two years,” Enos said. “I want to make sure money that was intended for the kiddos got where it was supposed to be.”

Enos, who was elected to the Dighton-Rehoboth school board this year, said she turned over a number of documents to Dighton Police. Chief Robert Macdonald confirmed his department investigated the concerns.

“We sent the case to the District Attorney’s office in March,” Macdonald said.

Bristol Count District Attorney’s office spokesperson Brandon Ferris said he could not offer any details about the status of the case.

“I cannot comment,” Ferris said.

As various entities spent more than a year squabbling over why the Disney invoice wasn’t paid, and who should pay it, Disney agreed to clear the balance last fall.

“There’s no debt hanging over our head from Disney because they were kind enough to forgive it,” Enos said. “But the way this was handled made us look deeper.”

According to Enos, the issues began to unravel in May of 2013, when a group of parents questioned the overall cost of the band’s Disney trips over the past few years and wondered if they could spend a little less.

It was later discovered that now former Dighton-Rehoboth Athletic Director Stan Franczyk received a $5,500 fee to plan the 2014 Disney trip, and had also received planning fees for past trips to the theme park.

Enos said the expenses paid from Franczyk’s account were never in writing and surprised several parents.

“A lot of kind, generous hard working parents had no idea Franczyk was charging a fee,” Enos said.

Enos claims it was a conflict of interest for Franczyk to accept money from the booster club since he had been employed by the district. Documents indicate Franczyk’s contract as athletic director was not renewed in 2014, but he signed an agreement for the 2014 Disney trip in May of that year as the DRHS Athletic Director.

In a letter to the booster club’s attorney, Franczyk’s attorney Stephanie Maloney denied her client committed a conflict of interest but acknowledged $19,000 was deposited into Franczyk’s business account “to cover the administrative costs” and Franczyk’s fee for planning the trip.

Maloney’s letter also includes a breakdown of how the money was spent, with three others receiving payments for helping with the trip.

According to the letter, Steve Grota, who was the booster club president during the two years before Enos was elected, received a cash payment of 3,000 “for band equipment transport.”

Neither Grota nor Franczyk responded to requests for comment from Target 12.

Maloney would not comment either.

Grota’s attorney Mitchell Starr said his client has done nothing wrong and has not been contacted by Dighton Police or the Bristol County District Attorney’s office. Starr said questions about the booster club’s 990’s during Grota’s two years as president were better suited for the organization’s accountant. Phone calls to the accountant were not immediately returned.

Enos added that the effort to dig into the groups books is ongoing.

“We have to file amended returns. We’re hopefully in the process of doing almost a forensic audit,” Enos said. “We have to make sure that the money is all there and it went to where it was supposed to go. We uncovered this on my watch. And I want it cleaned up on my watch.”

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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