KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- The president of the Norshaft youth baseball league was charged Monday in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division with allegedly embezzling at least $8,200 from the league and selling some of its equipment.
Pleaded not guilty
Brian D. Bushee, 41, of School Street in Arlington, pleaded not guilty to one count of embezzlement and was released on conditions.
According to an affidavit by Trooper Robert Zink, of the Vermont State Police, on April 26 he met with Timothy Pierce, who ran the concession stand for Norshaft games and had concerns over how Bushee was handling the league's money.
The investigation was ultimately handled by Det. Trooper Tyler Burgess because, according to him, a trooper assigned to the Shaftsbury barracks had a personal affiliation with the league's activities. He referenced Zink's interviews throughout.
According to Zink, Pierce said Bushee took over the league in 2010 after the former president, Jeffrey Whitesell, stepped down. Whitesell would always take the money from the stand and provide a written report of where it went, a practice Bushee did not continue. He also assumed the responsibilities of treasurer and secretary.
Pierce told police he got into an argument with Bushee on April 25 when he suggested the money be examined by himself and the coach before being given to Bushee. He said Bushee ended up agreeing to that system.
Pierce said he went to police after the season started to draw near and no equipment had been purchased, nor had $2,000 in maintenance been done to Howard Park, where the group plays. He said he bought $800 in items for the concession stand and it took weeks for him to be paid back, and Bushee did so in cash, whereas before he had always received a check. Pierce told police this confused him, as he was under the impression Bushee had received between $4,000 and $5,000 in registration fees, as well as between $1,000 and $2,000 from sponsors.
Pierce told police that money was going to go to the Bennington Little League, as the Norshaft players would no longer be involved with Cal Ripken baseball, attached to Manchester and Arlington. Pierce told police it was also his impression that Manchester and Arlington would not allow Norshaft in their league because Bushee had not paid the registration fees.
According to Pierce, he spoke to Bushee about this, who told him he had paid, and they were joining Bennington because Manchester and Arlington did not want to play Norshaft anymore.
"Norshaft" refers to North Bennington and Shaftsbury.
Pierce then told police he had heard rumors about Bushee selling the league's equipment, which included a pitching machine and tow trailer, and directed them to speak to Geoffrey Metcalfe, president of the Bennington Little League.
Zink said he spoke to Metcalfe, who told him he and Bushee did speak about merging their leagues.
Metcalfe told police he was contacted by Bushee and asked to order uniforms for the Norshaft players so they would match the Bennington group. He ordered them through Bennington Sports and Graphics, but the business told him it would not fill the order because of a previous unpaid balance owed by Bushee of $1,300.
Metcalfe said he worked out a deal with the company, and bought $1,600 in uniforms for this year, which he said he would not give to Bushee until the previous year's account was settled. He said he learned Bushee paid the business the $1,300 with a check, but Bushee had yet to pay $1,600 to Metcalfe.
Police asked Metcalfe about the equipment, and he said he'd heard rumors that they were sold to Christopher Mayne and Mark Boudreau.
According to the affidavit, police then spoke to Whitesell, who said he too had concerns about Bushee, saying he learned that a check to the state level Cal Ripken league had bounced and that a trailer containing a pitching machine and other equipment was sold.
Zink wrote that he spoke to Boudreau, who said he purchased a tow trailer from Bushee in 2010 for $1,000 and that Bushee said the money was going to the Norshaft baseball league.
Mayne told police that he bought the pitching machine in 2010 from Bushee for $1,200 cash, and was under the impression Bushee had bought it from the league. He said Bushee made comments about not wanting his wife to find out about the purchase and that he was headed to the Saratoga race track.
On April 16, Zink wrote that he spoke to with Amy Volpi, former treasurer for the Norshaft league, who said she was contacted by Merchant's Bank the day before about the league's account being over-drafted. She said this confused her, as she thought the account to be closed with her name off it.
She met with Zink after getting records from the bank and told him that on Oct. 14, 2010, she closed the Merchant's Bank North Shaft Little League account with $4,528 in it, and wrote one for that same amount to Bushee, who was supposed to put it into a new account for Norshaft Baseball. She said she learned that check was cashed that day by Bushee but not put into any account.
Burgess wrote that he met with Bushee at Howard Park on May 24. Bushee said he was "force-fed" the league by Whitesell, and characterized the situation by saying he'd been given the keys to a race car, but no instructions on how to drive it. He admitted that his accounting had been done poorly.
According to the affidavit, Bushee told Burgess that he did take some money for personal use, but intended to pay it back. He said he could pay for the uniforms as well, but had no idea what happened to the $4,528 check mentioned by Volpi. He could also not account for the registration money he'd been given in 2011.
He told police he did sell the equipment, only because the town of Shaftsbury wanted it gone, and denied saying anything about a race track. He said other expenses he paid out of a green bank bag.
Burgess said he told Bushee that even with the verbal accounts he'd given, there was still a few thousand dollars unaccounted for. He said Bushee told him there was $1,900 left in the bag, but then said he would find no money there. Bushee told police his "hackles" were up when he said that, and felt defensive. Burgess said he left Bushee at his wife's house to look for documentation of the funds.
According to Burgess, $13,700 had been taken in by the league since 2010, and only $5,500 could be accounted for.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr