Bucks Library Manager Arrested
David Bennett, 51, of New Britain, is charged with stealing more than $200,000 since 1999.
Inquirer Staff Writer
While she was on a business trip to Harrisburg in the spring of 2001, Marilyn Moody, executive director of the Bucks County Free Library, was startled when her library credit card was rejected.
"I presented it to the hotel and was told that it had no balance," Moody said yesterday.
The explanation was an even bigger shock: The library's digital services manager, David Bennett, had maxed out the card with more than $9,000 in cash advances at a convention in Las Vegas - not to mention a $325 tab for a Vegas enterprise called "Cover Girls."
"It doesn't leave much to the imagination as to what that might involve," Bucks District Attorney Diane E. Gibbons said. Still, she added, it was just a trifle in Bennett's bilking of the county library system.
Bennett, 51, of New Britain, was arrested yesterday on felony theft charges, accused of stealing more than $200,000 from the library between November 1999 and March 2002. He was released after posting $75,000 bail. Efforts to reach him last night were unsuccessful.
Most of the losses, about $144,000, were kickbacks that Bennett pocketed from a friend he had hired to do $236,000 worth of computer consulting work for the library, Gibbons said. The consultant has not been charged.
Bennett also altered library invoice documents to disguise personal purchases of almost $70,000 in electronic appliances and gadgets, from a satellite TV dish and computers to Palm Pilots and digital cameras, Gibbons said.
"Any kind of electronic gadgets you could think of to buy, he purchased using library funds," Gibbons said.
Some he kept, some he sold, some he gave to three female friends in Missouri and Nevada, Gibbons said. Several computers have been returned to the library, and Moody is checking to see whether insurance might cover some of the other losses.
"It hasn't interfered with our services," Moody said.
The Bucks County Free Library's budget this year was more than $9 million, most of it from state and county funds.
As supervisor of the library's computer network, Bennett had a salary of than $60,000 when he was fired in March. According to court records, he told investigators he felt entitled to some of the stolen money "because the library did not pay him enough for his work."
In the spring of 2001, when Bennett returned from Las Vegas, library officials approached him about his credit-card capers, Moody said, but stopped short of firing him.
"We confronted him, and I discussed with him the sensitivity of using public funds," she said.
He agreed to have the library dock his pay until the losses were reimbursed but no charges were filed. Later, when the library discovered other thefts, Bennett was fired and police summoned, Moody said.
"We felt that it was perhaps an indiscretion that would not be repeated," she said. "I am dismayed by what we are now finding out."