The deeper you dig, the dirtier it gets.
Even on the Main Line.
Radnor Township officials are reeling from an audit report that accuses Dave Bashore, the former township manager, of misspending up to $378,000 in public funds through questionable purchases and unauthorized payments to himself.
The long-awaited report, released yesterday, is a 48-page crash course on the perils of government secrecy.
It alleges that Bashore, who was fired in April, had turned the affluent community into his personal fiefdom by handing out secret bonuses to loyal employees, altering public records requested by his political enemies and fudging the numbers to cover his tracks.
"I think we're all outraged," Radnor's interim solicitor, John Rice, said at Monday night's commissioners meeting. He said that Bashore had "engaged in a pattern of secrecy, self-dealing and fiscal mismanagement" since he was appointed manager in 2001.
The forensic audit, performed by accounting firm Marcum, uncovered evidence that Bashore may have committed several serious crimes during his tenure. Rice said that the report had been turned over to Delaware County, state and federal law-enforcement agencies.
Ronald Surkin, Bashore's attorney, said yesterday that he hadn't read the report, but denied that his client had done anything wrong. He said that Bashore, as Radnor's chief administrative officer, had the authority to grant the bonuses.
Records show that Bashore doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses to employees - including more than $150,000 to himself.
The auditors determined that Bashore concealed the bonuses by shifting the expenses into a sewer-fund account and telling the township payroll clerk to secretly print the checks. He hand-delivered the checks, even to employees who typically received their pay through direct deposit.
"This kind of secrecy encourages personal loyalty to the person granting the bonus and delivering the check rather than the Township, which is the source of the funds," the report states.
Auditors also uncovered $165,500 worth of questionable charges on Bashore's township-issued credit card, some of them allegedly for personal expenses.
Bashore had long sought to block the release of employee credit-card statements, providing township Treasurer John Osborne - his political rival - with heavily redacted or incomplete records, according to the report.
The auditors said that Bashore had redacted charges for 76ers tickets and would white-out single digits, for instance, changing an expenditure for "purchases and other charges" from $4,835.44 to $835.44.
Sometimes, the auditors found, Bashore would completely alter the explanation for an expense before it got to Osborne. A purchase at the liquor store, for example, was changed from "Employee service gift" to "Holiday party," and the purchase of a "portable massager for staff" was changed to "safety awards."
Bashore told auditors that he made the changes and redactions to protect "sensitive information," according to the report.
"There are no, and I repeat no, inappropriate credit-card charges that he made," Surkin said, adding that the auditing team was "very adversarial" toward Bashore.
Radnor commissioners voted unanimously Monday to attempt to recoup a $175,000 home loan that the township had given Bashore when he was hired. Bashore recently moved out of Radnor, and his previous e-mail account has been deactivated.
"I'm confused, downright perplexed, simply numbed by the vicious public spectacle you've let this become," Bashore told the commissioners in April before he was fired. "I'm angry - angry at having been made the target of a witch hunt."
Rice said that Bashore had also arranged for the recording of all incoming telephone calls to the township receptionist, starting in October 2007. He said law-enforcement officials had been notified of the recordings because they could be a "technical violation" of the state wiretap law.
Christina Perrone, a Democratic committeewoman who helped expose some of the documents that led to Bashore's termination, urged the board to recoup all of the money Bashore earned as manager.
"Why not go after every single penny?" she asked.