He’s just devastated that any of the parents are suggesting that this money was used other than the benefit of the kids in the program. That absolutely devastates him that that allegation would be made. As his counsel, I haven’t seen any support for that accusation. —Melissa Fulkerson, Attorney for Mark Dubach
SOUTH JORDAN — Thousands of dollars intended for Bingham High School were deposited into an account not connected to the school that a former coach called his “personal business account.”
The checks, obtained by the Deseret News after a monthlong investigation into allegations of financial mismanagement against former basketball coach Mark Dubach, span four years and amount to $9,575. Twenty-six of the 27 checks obtained by the Deseret News were made out to Bingham High School or Bingham basketball and were intended for school fees, team-related trips and other purposes.
How much of the money was used for such fees and programs is unknown. Bingham High Principal Tom Hicks said he has no way of reviewing those transactions because they occurred in an account over which he has no jurisdiction.
Earlier this month, the Deseret News reported that Dubach’s decision to end his 22-year coaching career and resign as a teacher came amid allegations of financial improprieties and verbal abuse of players. He resigned after school and district officials opened an investigation into whether two checks written by parents totaling $800 for a gym rental were cashed into an account unaffiliated with the school.
Since that report was published, several parents came forward with checks they wrote to Bingham High that were deposited into that same Granite Credit Union account.
In addition to calling it his “personal business account,” Dubach told the Deseret News it was an account for his club basketball team. But Hicks said there are no outside accounts for any program affiliated with Bingham athletics or activities — including booster accounts. The Jordan School District prohibits any outside accounts for activities affiliated with a school.
Dubach declined to comment this week when contacted about the new information and referred all questions to his attorney, Melissa Fulkerson.
“He’s just devastated that any of the parents are suggesting that this money was used other than the benefit of the kids in the program. That absolutely devastates him that that allegation would be made. As his counsel, I haven’t seen any support for that accusation,” Fulkerson said.
The Deseret News interviewed seven sets of parents and received copies of checks written to Bingham basketball and deposited into the outside account from five of those families. They asked to remain anonymous because they said they fear repercussions for their sons. Some said they suspected problems with finances, but were reluctant to ask questions because they didn’t want to be seen as troublemakers.
One mother said she recently discovered that $1,850 “of my money went into his account. I want to know where it went. I think it’s past time this came out."
Her checks spanned several years and were written for school fees and costs related to basketball trips. When she realized the checks had been cashed at the same credit union account reported in the newspaper, she said she was angry.
“Instantly, you feel so betrayed,” she said. “I trusted him. The more checks I found, the madder I became until I was just furious.”
Another mother discovered 12 separate checks totaling $3,135 that went into that account. She said she has mixed emotions about the money.
“I think it’s sad,” she said. “I guess justice should be served, but I feel bad for him and his family. I don’t know what to think about it.”
Another family produced six checks to the program totaling $3,750. One of those checks, written in December of 2009, was for $575 to pay for a full-page, color ad in the basketball program.
"The boys sold advertisements to boosters and businesses to help cover their fees,” said the father who wrote that check. He now questions whether the school received that money for the ad.
That same family also received a call just two weeks ago from Bingham’s financial secretary telling them that they owed $350 in outstanding basketball fees for the 2012-13 season. The student’s mother took the checks into the office and showed secretaries that she’d paid all of the required fees, which they agreed she had. Two of those checks totaling $925 were deposited into the Granite Credit Union account.
Another parent wrote one check for $465 and an additional check for $825 intended for summer camps in 2011 and 2012. She said she never questioned the prices nor received a breakdown of the costs but now wishes she had.
“I don’t know if I’m naïve but I just thought the money was going towards what it was supposed to be going towards,” she explained.
One mother said she asked questions about $40 that Dubach once collected to attend Knott’s Berry Farm in California during a school-related basketball trip. When her son told her they didn’t go to the amusement park, she emailed the coach.
“He said, ‘I’ll put it in his account and it will go to something else’,” she said, acknowledging that she had no way of checking. “But the same thing happened two years ago when we paid $80 for the boys to go to Disneyland. They didn’t go.”
Another time, she said the coach sent a paper home with her son that said she owed some fees. She went through her checks and emailed him her accounting. He emailed back: “You’re right. It was my error.”
One family provided the Deseret News with an agenda from a parent meeting with Dubach from last spring. The agenda said the cost for the season would be $1,150, while the cost for the summer program would be “about $750.”
“They’d give us the breakdown every year. It’s going to be $1,800, $700 for the Christmas trip to San Diego,” another mother added. “But we’ve never gotten a breakdown of how much the hotels rooms are — four boys per room — this is how much is going to cost for food, for gas, tournament fees. It’s just that it’s $700 for San Diego — pay for it.”
That agenda also indicated the players were required to work as scorekeepers for Amateur Athletic Union events. But parents said there was never an accounting or any record of discounts provided, and essentially the players were working eight- to 12-hour shifts on holidays and weekends without compensation. But parents said they didn’t feel they could ask questions about how much their boys earned working the AAU tournaments — nor any accounting of their fees.
The seven sets of parents said few families asked for or were given an accounting of their money or fees. When they brought up financial issues, some of the parents claimed they were met with hostility from Dubach, and feared their children would be cut or lose playing time if they forced the issue.
One mother said parents fear retribution against their sons. “You’re afraid for him, afraid they’ll yell at him more, demean him in practice or just not let him play.”
The parents acknowledged that keeping silent for playing time may appear silly, but said playing for their high school team is something all of the boys dreamed and prepared for over many years.
“This is something these boys have worked for from the day they pick up that basketball in Jr. Jazz — making their high school team,” another mother said. “You’re going to jeopardize that for $40? You get labeled as the troubled parent, and your kids suffer. It’s not worth it.”
One mother said she raised the issue of accounting for fees with Dubach after she noticed some of the things she paid for on a Bingham-related trip were not given to the boys. She said her questions damaged her relationship with Dubach to the point that they barely spoke after that. When she and her husband mentioned their suspicions to the principal, she claims they were turned away.
“We made one comment once to Mr. Hicks,” she said. “We got shut down fast. It was so obvious that both my husband and I just shut up.”
Hicks didn’t return phone calls to the Deseret News seeking comment on the new information. But in an earlier interview, he said he never suspected financial issues and that Bingham’s books are audited “four times a year.” He also said no parent had asked him for an accounting of funds solicited for the boys basketball program.
Once Dubach resigned, the district stopped its probe into allegations of financial mismanagement. But the Utah State Office of Education and South Jordan police detectives are continuing separate investigations.
"This is still a pending investigation,” Dubach’s attorney said. “I've contacted South Jordan (police) — we're willing to talk to them. I would ask everyone to be conscientious of the fact that it's an ongoing investigation. All of the evidence is not out there yet.”
Dubach was the fourth recent high-profile high school coach to resign after allegations of financial missteps were discovered or reported. Timpview head football coach Louis Wong resigned both his coaching and teaching positions in May of 2012 after an audit revealed issues with the way fundraising money was handled by the coach and the school. Lone Peak baseball coach Mike LaHargoue resigned in the summer of 2011, just as an audit of his program was initiated by district officials. Lone Peak football coach Tony McGeary recently resigned after issues surrounding a team camp and a sponsorship contract with an Under Armour dealer were found to violate district policy.
The investigation into Timpview's football program prompted changes statewide in the way school officials handle donations, booster accounts and fundraising efforts. The Utah State Office of Education enacted a new rule governing these activities this month.
Jordan School District officials said they have received no complaints or questions from parents regarding finances at Bingham High but said they'd be willing to address any concerns if they're brought to their attention.
Twitter: adonsports; tphibbsdnews