When Alex Simonka, women’s basketball coach of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, committed suicide last week, you had to know there would be more to the story. A lifelong Coast Guardsman and coach of the team for 16 years, Simonka by all accounts showed no signs of depression.
Ten days after Simonka was found in his assigned parking space at the Academy in New London, CT, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, we learn that he had been suspended pending an investigation into the finances of the athletics department, of which Simonka was business manager.
The 51-year-old Simonka was a basketball star at CGA, became coach of the women’s team in 1992, and retired from active duty in 1999. As director of the athletics association, he oversaw a department that handled more than $1 million in revenues and expenses last year.
Several months ago, the U.S. Attorney’s office launched an investigation of the association’s activities. Three days before he killed himself, Simonka was suspended from the Academy.
”After an interview with Mr. Alex Simonka, certain information was revealed that warranted placing him on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of that investigation,” [Rear Admiral J. Scott] Burhoe said.
Details are sketchy due to the ongoing probe, but it appears an awful lot of money — much of it government funds — has gone missing, without a paper trail.
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Monday that he did not have any records pertaining to the association. A charitable organization raising more than $50,000 annually is required to file an annual reporting return describing its mission, programs and finances.
The secretary of the state’s Commercial Recording Division did not have any filings from the association either.
”We will ask for additional facts to determine whether they are somehow exempt because of their connection to the Coast Guard,” Blumenthal said, “but if they are a private organization, even if they are using the name Coast Guard, they probably have a duty to file.”
Rear Adm. Burhoe, in a statement to the school, wrote:
Alex Simonka was a mentor, coach, and friend, and we are all deeply hurt by this tragedy.
Situations such as this often cause us to ask more questions than there are answers, but for now I ask that we focus on providing support to those most affected by this loss, and by providing our deepest sympathy to the family members left behind.
And that is where our sympathies should lie. Innocent people don’t commit suicide in cases like this. Simonka won’t have to live with the consequences of his actions, but his wife and daughter will. No matter what happened, no amount of money is worth abandoning your family.