Police investigate civic leader

Police are investigating the possible misappropriation of more than $10,000 from the bank account of a Far Northeast civic association whose members allege that the group’s president withdrew the money without their consent.

Seth Kaplan was not identified by name during the civic group’s monthly meeting on Oct. 11, but sources within the association have told the Northeast Times that Kaplan was the one who wrote the dubious checks. Police sources and Kaplan’s own attorney have confirmed that Kaplan is under investigation.

Kaplan, 32, did not attend the SCA meeting last week and had not been charged with a crime as of Tuesday afternoon.

SCA Vice President Lou DeCree chaired the meeting in Kaplan’s absence. DeCree told dozens of members in attendance that he and other board members had learned days earlier that the organization’s checking account balance had dwindled to less than $1,000.

SCA Treasurer Chris Bordelon reported that the decline was incremental over about five months. It stood at $11,550 on May 20. By Sept. 20, it was $4,475. The balance was $918 on the night of the meeting. The group also has about $150 in petty cash, said Bordelon. In his report, the treasurer initially said that he would read individual disbursements from the checking account, but DeCree and other board members interjected, stating that they wouldn’t provide those details due to the ongoing investigation.

“The reason that we’re in this situation is because a wrongdoing, an embezzlement, was practiced. The sole author of this wrongdoing is not here with us tonight,” Bordelon said.

“Obviously, we have a serious problem here. We can’t talk too much about it. I can tell you the police have been notified,” DeCree said. “It’s in the hands of Northeast Detectives.”

When reached by text message, Kaplan referred a reporter’s inquiries to attorney Robert Donatoni, who issued the following statement a day after the meeting:

“I have stated to the investigating detective and to the board our desire and intent to cooperate fully. That includes our offering to the detective the opportunity to interview Mr. Kaplan. We fully anticipate that the discrepancies in the funds in the Somerton accounts will be replenished in full by this time next week.”

Donatoni did not describe the source of the reimbursement money. As of Tuesday afternoon, police had not interviewed Kaplan and the Somerton Civic Association had not received reimbursement for its loss. Although SCA board members said that they understood that an arrest would be forthcoming, a police supervisor overseeing the investigation told the Times that detectives are still trying to trace and document the flow of money. The District Attorney’s Office will review those findings and recommend any charges if warranted, said Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum of Northeast Detectives.

Kaplan’s handling of the civic group’s money has come into question previously. Last fall, members balked after Kaplan spent about $900 in SCA funds without the the group’s prior approval. The president later explained that someone had threatened to sue the civic group, so he used the money to pay an attorney’s consultation fee. In response, members voted to require a cosigner on all checks drawn from the group’s account.

At last week’s meeting, SCA board members did not disclose who, if anyone, cosigned the checks now in question. Bordelon did not detail why the funding shortage went undetected for more than four months.

Kaplan has been the SCA president since June 2014 when members selected him to replace Dolores Barbieri, who stepped down at the end of a five-year tenure. Kaplan was the only nominee for the job at the time. Members granted him a second two-year term last June when there were no other nominees.

Kaplan was a well-known political figure in the community prior to becoming president of the civic group. He served as a deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle when Boyle was a member of the Pennsylvania House representing Somerton and other Far Northeast communities. Kaplan later served four years as chief of staff for state Rep. Kevin Boyle, Brendan’s brother, in a neighboring legislative district.

Last year, Kaplan announced his intention to run for Brendan Boyle’s former state House seat in a special election, but the Democratic party backed another candidate, Sarah Del Ricci. Initially, Kaplan said he intended to mount a third-party campaign, but he later backed out of the race. He said he didn’t want to split the Democratic vote. Republican Martina White ultimately won the special election.

Most recently, Kaplan worked as coordinator of development and public relations for the Isaac Newton Foundation, an organization that exists to fund MaST Community Charter School in Somerton. MaST CEO John Swoyer said that Kaplan had resigned his position with Isaac Newton and that neither the foundation nor school had identified any financial irregularities.

Kaplan’s LinkedIn profile states that he also serves on the boards of the Northeast Family YMCA, Northeast Victim Services, the Holocaust Awareness Museum, Agora Cyber Charter School and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

During the SCA meeting, one member proposed that the group revoke Kaplan’s position on the board and membership in the organization. DeCree said that it would be premature to take that action before anyone had been formally implicated of wrongdoing. ••

(Reporter William Kenny and Kaplan each serve as volunteer members of the Northeast Victim Services board.)