GRAY — The Town Council voted again Thursday to suspend and put on probation the town’s director of recreation for unacceptable shortfalls in his budget.

The council called Thursday’s special meeting to make formal — and legal — its votes taken earlier this month behind closed doors.

Dean Bennett, who headed the Gray Recreation Department for 17 years, was fired last month after the town manager found fiscal discrepancies in Bennett’s budget. He appealed that action to the council, which held a hearing on his appeal over several days and voted to suspend, rather than fire, him.

The council split on the outcome of Bennett’s appeal. An effort to uphold the manager’s action was defeated 2-3. The council then voted 3-2 to suspend Bennett from Nov. 16 to Dec. 16. He also was placed on probation from the time he returned to work until Sept. 15. He is required to develop with the town manager by Feb. 1 a “performance improvement plan” that must meet the council’s approval and to follow the plan.

In a Dec. 11 letter to Bennett, the council found he “failed to adequately collect and account for department revenues in connection with the 2009 Summer Camp Program.”

The town manager calculated:

• an uncollected balance of $8,069.50 in registration fees was owed the town.

• a shortfall of $4,302 was inadequately explained by “fee discounts” or “fee adjustments.” 

• a shortfall of $3,802.60 occurred between paper receipts for cash collections and actual cash received.

Despite the discrepancies, the council wrote that Bennett’s performance evaluations during his tenure “have been positive.”

In an editorial Thursday, the Sun Journal stated that the council’s votes on Bennett’s appeal should have taken place in public.

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