While the students and a majority of the staff at Keene State College were home for winter break, Benjamin Mecklenberg, former coordinator of Intramural and Recreational Sports, was on campus and allegedly falsifying payroll records and stealing money from Keene State College.
According to the indictments and information received by the New Hampshire Superior Court, beginning on or around Jan. 24, 2009, Mecklenberg allegedly stole between $500 and $1,000. Also, from Dec. 1, 2010 to Feb. 15, 2011, he allegedly stole $1,000 and $1,500. In that same time period, Mecklenberg was charged with falsifying payroll records at KSC, a Class A misdemeanor. The two theft charges are Class B felonies.
Mecklenberg was terminated from KSC on March 18, 2011, the same day that he was indicted by a grand jury. Mecklenberg was supposed to appear at his arraignment on Wednesday, April 27, to meet with John Gasaway, the assistant Cheshire County attorney, to discuss the charges against him. Mecklenberg did not show up at the arraignment.
As the former Intramural/Recreational Sports Coordinator, his duties included supervising student employees, managing their schedules, and organizing all the Intramural/Recreational sporting events at KSC.
According to Lynne Andrews, the Director of Intramural/Recreational Sports, Mecklenberg had been employed at KSC for five years. His indictment records show that he is 40 years old. Mecklenberg’s Facebook page lists him as single, and he was born in Jamestown, North Dakota.
Detective Robert Collinsworth of the Keene Police Department could not comment on the case, including whether or not police know of Mecklenberg’s current whereabouts, because it was already handed over to John Gasaway, the assistant Cheshire County attorney.
Mecklenburg’s last known address was a small motel located at 59 Monadnock Highway in Marlborough, N.H.
According to Peter and Peggy Allen, owners of the Coach House Motel and Cottages where Mecklenberg was staying, he seemed like the perfect tenant.
“He always kept to himself, he never caused any trouble,” said Peter Allen. The Coach House Motel is also where Adventure Limousine is located.
Peter said Mecklenberg arrived at the motel last August and that his sister came down with her car from Maine to help him unpack and move into the motel.
“I’ve only talked to him a few times. He seemed like a nice guy. He paid his rent on time, he kept to himself- never bothered anyone,” Peter Allen said.
According to the Allens, Mecklenberg moved out about four or five weeks ago, in late March, right after he was fired from Keene State College. He still owed about two or three weeks rent, amounting to around $400.
“He said that he would mail us the money, but it looks like we won’t be getting it back,” Peggy Allen said.
The Allens had no idea of his indictment or termination from KSC.
“I was shocked, he was a great tenant. I guess sometimes you just never know,” Peter Allen said.
Out of the students who were contacted to make a statement about his indictment and termination from KSC, only a few were willing to talk, with most requesting to remain anonymous.
“I haven’t worked since the fall semester, and within the first pay period of this semester [the first two weeks] I got an email from Ben saying that the University System of New Hampshire overpaid me. He was right, I noticed about $140 were directly deposited into my account the day before. In his email, Ben asked for the money back in cash. It did sound strange at the time, but I just did as I was told and gave the money back,” said one employee.
A different employee had similar stories to share. The student said that they had received several checks in which they were overpaid.
“I know the payroll office or somebody had messed up; I was getting way too many hours. I would work like three hours in a week and get a check for over $200. This was right around October. I know my roommates had similar experiences. We pretty much were working the same hours every week, but they received $80 more in their checks on more than one occasion,” the student said.
Many of the students who declined comment said they were told to do so by their superiors. The students who were interviewed had no idea why Mecklenberg had been put on a leave of absence and then subsequently fired from KSC. Other students, including all of the supervisors at Intramural/Recreation Sports, refused to comment at all. According to several students, the supervisors worked directly under Mecklenberg.
“I know that Lynne [Lynne Andrews, Coordinator of Recreation Sports] had said he had to take a leave of absence because he was sick or broke his leg or a family member had died. A lot of rumors floated around, but nobody was really sure,” said an intramural sports official.
Lynne Andrews stated that she did not, and could not, comment about how many times Mecklenberg had taken a leave of absence or the reasons why.
However, she did state they are seeking a replacement and she has taken over all responsibilities that Mecklenberg once held.
“I’m not that suprised. He was much disorganized; he would schedule staff meetings and then cancel them last minute, and even canceled games. He didn’t seem too thrilled to be doing his job, like he didn’t put a lot of thought into it,” a third student from Intramural/Recreational Sports said.
Brandon Knight, a facility supervisor at the Spaulding Gymnasium, knew of Mecklenberg but never worked with him directly.
“It is what it is, he always seemed like a nice, personable guy. I was shocked when you contacted me, it was the first I had heard about it,” Knight said.
Knight stated that Lynne Andrews has been taking on a lot of Mecklenberg’s responsibilities since his departure, as well as the supervising staff of Intramural/Rectreational Sports.
Cory Shepherd was Mecklenberg’s landlord at the Church St. apartment complex in 2009.
“It’s been a year since he lived here, maybe two. He never caused any problems, never had anyone else around really. He had some type of health problem, I don’t remember the specifics. Sometimes he wasn’t there [in the apartment] for days or weeks at a time,” Shepherd said.
Research assistance provided by Tara Nathan.
James Niedzinski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org