ELKHART — The superintendent of Elkhart's Parks & Recreation Department, Randall Norton, has pleaded guilty to larceny in relation to his previous job in Michigan.
According to Three Rivers Commercial-News, Norton on Thursday pleaded guilty to larceny greater than $200 but less than $1,000 in St. Joseph County Circuit Court as part of a plea agreement with the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office.
Norton was charged in July with embezzling around $20,000 from Three Rivers Area Mentoring, where he was the executive director until taking the park superintendent job in December 2018.
Three Rivers Police Department said an auditor found misuse of TRAM's debit card as well as false reports, missing cash deposits and "grants that were not applied for to sustain their mission."
Police said nearly $10,000 in personal expenses were paid out to Norton by Three Rivers Area Mentoring and there was $11,000 in excess payroll.
Larceny greater than $200 but less than $1,000 is a misdemeanor in Michigan, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year; or a fine of up to $2,000 or three times the value of the property stolen, whichever is greater; or both imprisonment and a fine.
Mayor Tim Neese did not wish to comment on Norton's plea agreement.
Neese appointed Norton after the previous superintendent, Clyde Riley, resigned following accusations of financial mismanagement.
According to a previous statement by Neese, Norton offered his resignation twice after the charge against him became public. Neese declined.
After that meeting, the mayor said he believed the account he had heard from the park superintendent. According to the mayor, Norton claimed that he had gone from working 24 hours a week to 40 hours a week when TRAM went from having four employees to having three. That led to more money being paid out to Norton, Neese said.
The day after Neese learned of the charge through The Elkhart Truth, he also learned — again from a reporter — that Norton was as a salesman for Snider Recreation, a company that sells park and playground equipment, while working as the city's park superintendent.
Public records show that the city has made no purchases from Snider Recreation during Norton's tenure, and Neese called the superintendent's second job a "non-issue." Norton has since left the job at Snider Recreation.
Immediately after Norton's charge became public, Neese said there would be an audit of the Parks Department as a safety measure. However, the appropriation of $10,000 failed in a 2-7 vote in the city council.
Norton did not respond to requests for an interview on Monday.
The Elkhart Park Board will meet on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.
Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus