The director of a Los Angeles city recreation center is facing felony charges after she allegedly stole up to $15,000 from the facility, including lunch money from children in her care.
Carol Brandt, 47, who served as the director of the Montecito Heights Recreation Center northeast of downtown from 2008 to 2011, was charged Tuesday with embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds.
She is accused of pocketing more than $10,000 from members of several basketball and soccer teams who paid to use the facility's courts and fields in 2009 and 2010. She is also accused of stealing from snack bars at the recreation center and at an adjacent senior citizens' center, as well as money from young participants in a summer day camp.
Brandt was released without having to post bail Wednesday afternoon, according to Los Angeles Deputy Dist. Atty. Dana Aratani. Brandt and her attorney could not be reached for comment.
The case was referred to the district attorney by City Controller Wendy Greuel's office, which launched an investigation after being alerted by employees in the Department of Recreation and Parks.
In the referral letter to prosecutors, the controller's office said its investigators found that Brandt kept money that children brought to pay for lunch during a 2010 field trip to an Irvine family entertainment center.
The letter said Brandt submitted expense reports indicating that she used a city credit card to pay the cost of admission for the campers — which included vouchers for their lunches.
"She sunk to the lowest level possible," said Greuel, who is running for mayor. "She stole children's lunch money."
Brandt was hired by the city in 1997 and earned an annual salary of more than $65,000 when she took a personal unpaid leave in May 2011, according to Maggie Whelan, the general manager of the personnel department.
In May, a Department of Recreation and Parks gardener was arrested on suspicion of selling thousands of dollars worth of city gasoline on the black market.
Jon Kirk Mukri, who heads the parks department, said the alleged gasoline theft and the charges against Brandt do not reflect "the honesty or quality of our employees."
"It's an unfortunate fact of life that people do these things," Mukri said. "We know that there's always a risk when people have control of money, of cash."
Cash is collected at recreation centers, he said, because many low-income and immigrant participants in park programs don't use checks or bank cards.