Incident leads to new Naples credit card policy

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — The Town of Naples has revised its credit card policy and will no longer take credit card payments over the phone.

Going forward, credit card payments shall be done only online or in person at the Town Office.

According to Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak, the new policy stems from an incident in which the authorization of a credit card payment was questioned.

“It is unfortunate. But, as a result of this incident, we aren’t going to take credit card payments over the phone anymore,” Paraschak said.

“It’s not that I don’t trust my employees,” he said.

Basically, this policy will better protect both employees and residents of Naples who are using a credit card as a form of payment, he said.

The specific incident that sparked this change occurred less than two weeks ago.

It involves a disputed $202 debt owed to the Naples Recreation Department that was required to be paid in order for two Naples boys to play football. The cost to participate in the Youth Football League is $35 per person. Additionally, parents or legal guardians write a check for a refundable $25 equipment fee per child. That same check is returned to the person who signed it at the end of the season as long as the equipment is properly returned.

A Naples parent, Suzanne Deschenes, brought several issues to the public’s attention when she started an online petition to oust the town’s recreation director after she and her boys were turned away from the football field over an unpaid and disputed debt from the summer camp program. Additionally, the Naples recreation director called the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) to have her and her children removed from the town-owned field.

A few days later, Naples Recreation Director Harvey Price Jr., allegedly charged to Rob Deschenes’ credit card the $202 debt without proper authorization from Rob Deschenes.

The cost of participation in the football program had been approved verbally on the phone, according to Rob Deschenes. In other words, he told Price that he would pay for his sons to play football. Deschenes had specifically told Price that he would rather not pay the summer camp debt, Rob Deschenes said.

Regarding the authorization of the credit card payment, there are conflicting stories coming from the Deschenes, who have been divorced for about eight years, and Naples town management.

When asked about it on Sept. 13, Paraschak said, “No town employee charged anything that was not authorized.”

Suzanne Deschenes said that Paraschak told her the same thing in the exact same words.

When Paraschak was first asked about an unauthorized credit card payment, he said he knew “that did not happen” because “I was sitting in the room at the time” that Price was on the phone with Rob Deschenes.

On Saturday, Rob Deschenes explained his side of the story.

“I am going back and forth to see the kids. She has full custody. She is responsible for making the decisions she made,” he said.

“A while ago, I came home for a visit. I asked the kids if they were excited to play football. The kids said they wouldn’t be able to play. They said something like, ‘Mom and Harvey are fighting,’ ” Rob Deschenes said.

Later on, there were several e-mails from the Town of Naples, but Deschenes left them unread because his ex-wife deals with the day-to-day decisions regarding his children. Therefore, he was not totally “in the loop,” he said.

Then, Suzanne called him and relayed the story of what had happened on the evening of the equipment handout.

Via a phone call, “I told Harvey to call me. He called me. At the time, I was in an airport,” traveling from Atlanta to Nevada, Rob said.

“I said, ‘Look, I am not going to let the dispute of $202 keep the boys from playing football. I could pay on my credit card. But, I really cannot, it is between you and her,” Rob Deschenes said, describing the first phone conversation with Price.

Almost immediately after that phone call, while he was still in the airport, Suzanne called and asked, Can you sign up the kids before the deadline? So, Rob called Price back.

“I told him, ‘Go head and take my credit card number, and sign them up for football,’ ” he said.

“Harvey must have merged the two conversations. He took the liberty” of charging the $202 to my credit card, Rob Deschenes said.

The proper protocol would have been to ask if it was okay to charge the old debt along with the sports registration fee, he said.

“He never called back and said he was going to charge my credit card the $202. He never asked about it while we were on the phone the second time,” Rob said.

“Was it authorized properly? No, it was not,” he said.

In fact, it was a surprise when he discovered that amount had been deducted from his account, he said.

On Monday, Paraschak said that Rob Deschenes must have changed his story because when they spoke on the phone he was willing to cover that cost — although his divorce settlement did not require it. Paraschak said he had e-mails to back up that version of the events.

Price did not comment on the credit card authorization prior to press time.

As of Wednesday morning, the money deducted from Rob Deschenes’ credit card had not been refunded. However, he had requested a refund in writing.

In an e-mail, Suzanne Deschenes wrote, “Should he reverse that payment, I am very concerned that Harvey will refuse to let them (her sons) play (football), regardless of whether we paid the registration and equipment fee.”

Also, Suzanne Deschenes stressed that the payment of the football registration fee was made before the recreation department’s deadline of 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9.

Paraschak said that children have never before been turned away from a sport because their parents or guardian owed money to the town’s recreation department. Local children are not denied the chance to play sports due to a family’s financial situation either, he said.

“Money is never an issue. Various recreation departments have donors that pay for kids if their parents cannot,” he said.

“The deadlines are usually the biggest issue,” he said, adding that is because after a registration deadline, often coaches have divvied teams and game schedules have been set.

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