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City of Watertown dismisses parks employee at center of financial problems

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The Parks and Recreation Department employee at the center of its financial troubles two years ago has been fired.

Brenda M. Harwood was “let go” from her job as a senior account clerk/typist a couple of weeks ago, said a source familiar with the situation.

City Manager Sharon A. Addison, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and City Council members Roxanne M. Burns, Jeffrey M. Smith and Teresa R. Macaluso declined to comment because it is a personnel matter. Ms. Harwood’s former supervisor, Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin E. Gardner, could not be reached for comment.

Sources said Ms. Harwood’s departure was a result of the messy bookkeeping and accounting problems that plagued the Parks and Recreation Department for years. As the account clerk/typist, she was responsible for collecting money from Recreation Department users and scheduling activities.

In April 2011, the Watertown City Council learned tens of thousands of dollars went uncollected for years.

A 2011 outside audit determined Ms. Harwood didn’t use generally accepted bookkeeping and accounting procedures. The audit found she often jotted notes on calendars about which groups used the fields and failed to keep track of bills. Uncashed checks were left in drawers for more than a year, it concluded.

“It goes back to those days, overall,” a source said.

Another source confirmed that Ms. Harwood met with Ms. Addison a couple of weeks ago and that she returned to the Parks and Recreation office in the Watertown Municipal Arena at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds before turning in her key and leaving for good.

A source said that since Ms. Harwood’s departure, unrecorded “old” revenue was found in a desk drawer and that “there were some other difficulties” since a new Parks and Recreation management team was hired last year.

Ms. Harwood has started a new job at the reception desk at H&R Block on State Street. She declined to comment.

Ms. Addison said the city has started looking at the Civil Service list for a possible replacement for Ms. Harwood, who earned $38,477 in the past year and had worked for the city for 28 years.

Ms. Harwood also was president of Civil Service Employees Association Local 823. Public Works Department employee Jason Dugan replaced Ms. Harwood as union president, Ms. Addison said.

Since the department’s financial difficulties came to light, the city restructured Parks and Recreation and implemented new policies.

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