The Greater Hartford Pro Am is by many measures a unique, positive, and successful basketball program that has pro, college, and high school players competing together every summer. Problem is, according to city auditors, the program's operators have not paid the city school district for the use of its gymnasiums for years and those operators never forwarded a donation from the city that was supposed to help square up the debt.
Hartford auditors said the operators of the Greater Hartford Pro Am basketball program owe the city school board $50,000 for the use of its gymnasiums.
Audit commissioner Bruce Rubenstein said, “I want to get our money back."
Auditors said the Pro Am’s debt on the costs of using those gyms dates back to 2010. In 2013 then-Mayor Pedro Segarra gave the Pro Am a $25,000 donation so it could pay off the debt and keep the longtime program going. Auditors said this was done against the advice of school administrators, who instructed Segarra to put the donation directly in the city school board's account.
Deputy Chief Auditor Craig Trujillo said the Pro Am cashed the donation and the debt was not repaid even though it was told "This is a donation, and please give it to the board! And he didn't."
Pro Am director Peter Higgins tells the Troubleshooters he used the donation to pay bills for uniforms, referees, and insurance. Former Mayor Segarra tells us he remembers supporting the Pro Am but cannot specifically recall the details.
Auditors said it is also possible a second donation of $25,000 was made to the Pro Am and those records cannot be located. The Pro Am's director tells the Troubleshooters that is not the case, adding he is actively seeking sponsors to help it pay back the program's debts. He hopes the program will return to the city this summer.
Auditors said one of the reasons Hartford may not know the exact amount owed by the Hartford Pro Am was because payments for the use of school facilities were not entered into the city ledger, and was instead only periodically tracked with an excel spreadsheet, on one single laptop.
That laptop, by the way, was stolen at one point, but later recovered.