Burnsville police are investigating allegations that a girls' basketball league commissioner embezzled $15,000 to $40,000 in program funds -- apparently by misappropriating checks from parents -- over a three-year period.

It's the second time in several years that a commissioner has been accused of embezzling funds from the Burnsville Athletic Club, which has vowed to take steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

The commissioner, who was a volunteer, resigned after club officials asked him about financial discrepancies that popped up during an internal investigation. Club officials are wrapping up their audit and have forwarded their files to the police, club president Kevin Mortland said Friday.

The Star Tribune is not naming the suspect because he has not yet been charged.

Mortland said it appears that he cashed registration checks intended for the club's coffers.

"The person that was involved has been involved for many years and it's not what we expected. We have oversights in place that should have caught it, but sometimes it's difficult when people are trying to be deceptive. They can be pretty good at it," he said.

In 2003, girls' softball league commissioner Eugene Paul pleaded guilty to stealing more than $35,000 from the league and was sentenced to four months in jail. Financial problems had led Paul to file for bankruptcy.

Mortland said the club is working with a consultant and authorities to develop a system to prevent thefts in the future.

The Burnsville club is an independent nonprofit organization that supervises sports leagues for thousands of students in Burnsville and Savage. It takes no money from either city, relying on benefactors and fees, although it does rent office space at Burnsville City Hall.

Mortland said the matter came to the attention of officials within the last couple of months, after a participant said a check appeared to have been changed. Another person had the same question a week later, he said.

A preliminary investigation uncovered more discrepancies. Families in the league were told to check with their banks to see whether their checks had been tampered with or mishandled.

Meanwhile, the club estimated its losses based on internal audits from 2006 and 2007.

"We know it's gone into last season and possibly the season before. We don't have all the information, but it's possibly three years," Mortland said.

After the commissioner resigned, the club made Vice President Sam Griffiths acting commissioner of the girls' in-house basketball league. Neither that league nor other club sports were affected by the missing funds, Mortland said.

About 300 girls from third grade to high school play on 30 teams in the club. The in-house league is separate from the traveling league, which holds tryouts and competes against teams across the metro area.

"We take the responsibility," Mortland said. "Unfortunately, it tarnishes an organization like ours when you have an incident like this. We are taking steps to prevent this from happening again. We're sure that there's nothing else happening and that we put a stop to it."

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455