EDITORIAL: When it comes to cash, 'trust, but verify'

York Dispatch
  • A Hanover-area case of embezzlement reached a total of more than $750,000.
  • More than $600,000 was allegedly stolen from just the Hanover Soccer Club.
  • Such cases highlight the importance of having checks and balances when handling a group's finances.

“Trust, but verify.”

Forty years ago, that phrase was made world famous by U.S. president Ronald Reagan.

money logo

The Republican Party icon was describing his guarded outlook on a nuclear weapons treaty with the Soviet Union.

His words, however, still ring true here in York County four decades later.

To some, the phrase may seem contradictory.

After all, if you truly trust someone, why do you need to verify that they’re actually behaving properly.

The answer is simple. We are all human. We all have faults. We all have weaknesses. We are all capable of wrongdoing.

We are reminded of those human frailties all too often these days. It seems like we're continually reading about someone stealing thousands of dollars from local non-profit organizations, municipalities or businesses.

The latest case here in York County, however, was especially egregious.

The former treasurer of two Hanover-area youth sports leagues is accused of embezzling more than $750,00 from the clubs — as well as York-area business clients — over a six-year period.

Police: Treasurer for Hanover youth sports clubs embezzled $758K

The Penn Township man, who was also a financial adviser, is accused of stealing $604,719 from the Hanover Soccer Club, alone.

That’s a staggering figure.

That proves a couple of things.

First, youth sports is a huge business.

Second, Ronald Reagan was right.

When dealing with humans, you must “trust, but verify.”

Most folks want to be trusting, especially when it comes to their neighbors.

It can seem impolite to ask someone you consider a friend to corroborate a bank deposit or withdrawal. It can even create some hard feelings.

The failure to ask those kinds of probing questions, however, can lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It’s better to have some hard feelings, rather than be foolhardy.

Just ask the folks down in Hanover.

That case should serve as a stark warning for anyone involved with the finances of local organizations, both non-profit and for-profit groups. There must be a system of checks and balances in place to make sure that a single person does not have complete control of an organization’s purse strings.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

Yes, everyone is busy these days, and it’s often just easier to simply tell a trusted friend to handle a group’s finances.

Handling large amounts of other folks’ money, however, can be incredibly tempting, especially if a person runs into financial difficulties. That temptation can often lead to stealing in the blink of an eye.

It happens all too often. In fact, the New York Times recently ran an in-depth story on “The Trusted Grown-Ups Who Steal Millions from Youth Sports.”

Such activity has, sadly, become a plague on our society, and York County is most certainly not immune.

It’s important that we remember that, and that we remember those words made famous by President Reagan.

“Trust, but verify.”