Volunteer treasurer facing theft charges

Published on Thu, Jun 7, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Volunteer treasurer facing theft charges

By Meg Olson

Theft charges are pending against a former Blaine resident accused of stealing money from the organizations she gave her time to.

Whatcom County Superior Court issued a May 31 summons to Shirley Reeder, who moved from Blaine to the San Juan Islands last summer, accusing her of two counts of first degree theft.

Court documents describe a slow trickle of funds from the coffers of the Pacific Arts Foundation (PAF) and the Blaine Music Boosters (BMB). Reeder was the accountant for BMB from 1997 to 2000 and of PAF in 1999 and 2000. In 1999 and 2000 she is alleged to have written close to 60 checks for over $10,000 to pay her own bills. Checks range from $10 for a co-payment at a doctor’s office and $28 for a manicure to $550 to pay her rent and $354 for a new lawnmower. There were also several checks written for charitable donations, including $300 to the Harold Christianson Family Fund. Checks written for cash totaled over $2,000.

Under the timeline described in court documents, after board members found Reeder had used PAF funds for her own expenses, foundation president Wendy Robinson wrote her a letter last July. She demanded Reeder, who had left Blaine, reimburse $3,500. Records indicate Reeder had apparently tried to repay part of the debt by depositing $2,645.78 back in the PAF account in March. In her response to Robinson, court documents state, Reeder claimed to have the approval of board member Sharon Oldaker to write the checks. “She said she thought, because the organization was non-profit, they needed expenses to balance what they took in,” said Blaine police detective Doug Balmer who investigated complaints against Reeder from both organizations last fall and forwarded the case to county prosecutors. “She said she thought she was justified in what she did.” Reeder could not be reached for comment.

Oldaker, who was on the boards of both organizations, gave a statement to police stating permission had not been given to Reeder to use BMB funds. Robinson joined the PAF board in 1999 and also gave a statement that Reeder had not been given permission, to her knowledge, to use the PAF accounts for her own expenses. Neither Oldaker nor Robinson returned calls for comment.

According to Richard Clark, one of the founders of PAF, Reeder was a trusted member of the board and those who worked with her were confused and hurt by her apparent pilfering. “It’s an emotional thing,” he said. “There was a lot of trust there. It’s a nasty business and I feel like I’ve been soiled by association.” Clark said the financial irregularities came to light at a time when many of the same people were on the boards of both associations and the PAF board was experiencing difficult changes. New board members had looked more critically and less trustingly at the association’s business and long-time board members, including Clark, quit. Ultimately, PAF was renamed the Pacific Arts Association. “They wanted another name to dissociate them from the group she had been treasurer for,” Clark said.

Reeder is summoned to make her first court appearance in Bellingham June 15. According to Balmer she could face up to ten years in jail if found guilty of the charges..

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