Mercer County Parks administrator used charity to rip off taxpayers, NJ says
TRENTON — The former head of the Mercer County Parks Commission was indicted on charges he steered funds from the county into a slush fund masquerading as the nonprofit Friends of Mercer County Parks.
Kevin Bannon, 60, from Lawrenceville, also arranged for VIP concert tickets and free golf at county golf courses, according to Attorney General Christopher Porrino, who charged Bannon with six counts of official misconduct.
The former Rutgers mens basketball coach from 1997 through 2001 put his brother on the payroll as a "project manager" to run the foundation, according to Porrino. The brother was not charged.
“Bannon fooled many into thinking that the Friends nonprofit and the Parks Commission were, in essence, the same organization, so they didn’t suspect when asked to pay the nonprofit money that should have gone to the county. But we allege that Bannon illegally used the nonprofit as a slush fund to increase his power and influence,” said Elie Honig, director of the state Division of Criminal Justice.
The allegations against Bannon, who was dismissed as executive director in June include:
- Waiver of fees for golf outings/signs: Bannon waived fees for groups he was part of and for his own family totaling $57,000. He also is accused of using county funds and resources to organize outings and create signage.
- US Tennis Association Fee Diversion: Bannon diverted $9,000 in court rentals paid by the U.S. Tennis Association in 2013, 2014 and 2015 to the Friends instead of the county.
- Food vendor kickback: Bannon forced a county food and beverage vendor to pay a kickback of 10 percent to the Friends for three concerts in 2015.
- Trenton Thunder: Bannon allegedly told the team he would waive fees he claimed were owed the county for non-baseball events at Arm & Hammer Stadium in exchange for a $5,000 donation to the Friends.
Bannon was also charged with second-degree pattern of official misconduct, second-degree misapplication of entrusted property, third-degree theft by unlawful taking, and third-degree theft of services.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.