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Published: Tuesday, 10/5/2010

Country club's ex-manager sentenced to 90 days for theft

BLADE STAFF

BOWLING GREEN - Gary Kovach became an employee of Belmont Country Club when he was just 16 and was hired to wash dishes.

Monday, the club's former manager was sentenced to 90 days in the Wood County jail and was ordered to pay $50,000 restitution and perform 300 hours of community service for using the club's credit cards for personal purchases.

Wood County Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey also placed Kovach, 51, on community control sanctions for five years but qualified that. "If you've gotten through three years successfully and all financial sanctions have been completed and all community service work has been completed, the court would look favorably upon early termination" of probation, Judge Kelsey said.

Kovach, a Belmont employee more than 30 years, pleaded guilty in August to theft, a fourth-degree felony. A second count of theft and an additional count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

Before Kovach was sentenced, his attorney, Paul Accettola, spoke at length of his client's long career at Belmont, on Bates Road in Perrysburg Township. It includes an 18-hole golf course, a swimming pool, and tennis facilities.

He said Kovach was groomed for management by the late Tom Root, who as manager at Belmont was known to use the club credit cards "prolifically," according to some former board members and presidents. When Kovach became manager, he was given the green light to use the cards for club expenses as well as to buy clothes for himself "suitable to his new position," Mr. Accettola said.

He was encouraged to use the credit cards to eat at various restaurants to get ideas for the club or to scout for talented service staff. "There was never any artifice. There was never any secrecy," Mr. Accettola said. "There were no cooked books. There were no double books at any time. Gary was open and notorious about his spending habits."

The indictment alleged he used club-issued credit cards for personal purchases that totaled nearly $69,000 between July, 2002, and September, 2008.

Heather Baker, an assistant Wood County prosecutor, said Kovach entered a guilty plea, but it did not appear he had accepted responsibility for his actions.

"The bottom line is Mr. Kovach bought personal stuff not authorized by the board," she said. "He bought cigarettes. He bought pop. He paid for his child's ACT or SAT test with these cards. He bought a birthday present for his daughter's boyfriend at Kohl's with the credit card. He was buying food for the family. Those were things he did not have permission to do."

For his part, Kovach told the court simply, "I apologize for the bad judgments of some purchases that I made."

A co-defendant in the case, former Belmont accountant Barbara Muir, 65, of Maumee, pleaded guilty to theft last year and was sentenced in February to spend 60 days in jail, to pay $54,173 in restitution, and to perform 300 hours of community service.

- Jennifer Feehan



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