FOX 29 Investigates: Recreation Center In Juniata - Fox 2 News Headlines

FOX 29 Investigates: Recreation Center In Juniata

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It's supposed to be a safe haven where kids can play and have fun, so why's the door sometimes locked in the middle of the day?

It's mid-afternoon, June 4th, and a group of youngsters are trying to get inside the Piccoli Recreation Center in Philly's Juniata section.

They yank on the door, pound on the window, but the center is locked and they can't get in.

The scene repeats itself, over and over again for more than an hour.

Finally, late afternoon, a woman shows up, unlocks the door, and lets kids in.

Her name is Jenna Lentz. She's a part-time employee with the Department of Recreation.

And until she was laid off on July 1st, a teacher at the Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Northeast Philly.

But there's something else.

According to one of her signed and dated time sheets obtained by FOX 29 investigates, Lentz showed up to the center nearly an hour and a half later than what she wrote down. That's right, she scribbled in 3:30, but she didn't unlock the door until around five.

"Ms. Lentz, come here for a minute I just want to talk to you very quickly. Can I talk to you very quickly?" asked FOX 29 Investigates.

And that's apparently a touchy subject, Jenna Lentz and her union rep didn't want to talk about.

Before long, the union rep threatens to attack the cameraman.

Turns out, Jenna Lentz isn't the only rec center employee we've been keeping an eye on. For a couple of weeks in May and June, we also eyeballed her boss, Piccoli's director. We watched as the two city employees left the center locked-up, apparently when it was supposed to be open, sometimes with kids trying to get inside.

Now it's Friday, May 31st, and this young man can't get into the center. It's the hottest day of the year, over 90 degrees.

At 4:50, Lentz arrives and unlocks the door.

Same deal the following Friday. This time Lentz shows up at 5:02. Her time sheets for both days indicate she signed in at 3:30.

Lentz's boss, is recreation leader, Jorge Gonzalez. He's been the director at Piccoli for about a year. He earns an annual salary of more than 54-thousand taxpayer dollars.

Gonzalez indicates on his time sheets that he works from one PM to 9:30 PM.

But on most nights that we saw him, he closed up early.

And there were three days he left around eight.

We even saw Gonzalez and Lentz both leave one night at 8:45.

Gonzalez says he sometimes gets permission to leave early and use sick or comp time if he doesn't feel well. He also says he may work "before" or "after" his scheduled shift or on weekends, and he might not indicate those hours on his time sheets.

"Sometimes if I come early you see I have to do some paperwork or something like that and then ah, ah, maybe ah, ah, I have something to do or I have a meeting," says Gonzalez. "I'll tell you, you can ask anybody, I do my job."

And Jenna Lentz? We also wanted to ask her about the hours she works at the center. But when we tried to get some answers, District Council 47 Board Member Mike Walsh suddenly appeared and went after me and my cameraman.

Gonzalez says Lentz may be late because she's doing other things related to the center.

"Sometimes she has to do something before she comes here and she'll call me and I'll say yes, go ahead and do it," says Gonzalez.

"Well, the most important thing is that the rec center is not performing the service it's supposed to," says Alan Butkovitz.

We showed our videotape surveillance to city controller Alan Butkovitz.

Earlier this year, his office released a report, blasting conditions at some of the city's playgrounds and recreation centers. Butkovitz says if the centers aren't open when they're supposed to be, it's not only tough luck for neighborhood kids; it's potentially dangerous.

"You know if a police officer wasn't on duty when he was signed in to be on duty, and somebody got hurt, that could be a problem. Well recreation is supposed to support the police and public safety, and when they're not there, there's a danger that kids could get hurt and it's a problem for the same reason," says Butkovitz.

"There's only two workers here," responds Gonzalez.

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