Horse-rescue group, state settle

ARLINGTON — An Arlington-based horse rescue operation has agreed to change its bookkeeping practices and how it solicits donations as part of a settlement with the state Attorney General’s Office after a yearlong investigation into the group’s fundraising practices.

People Helping Horses has agreed not to misrepresent how it spends donations and to routinely audit its finances, the state Attorney General’s Office said Friday. The group also has agreed to implement financial controls and provide management training for its executive director and other executive-level employees.

The agreement also prohibits former Executive Director Gretchen Salstrom from being involved with the nonprofit in any capacity. She also is barred for a decade from leading a nonprofit in Washington.

Investigators allege that Salstrom misused donations for her own personal use.

“Gretchen Salstrom was helping herself to money intended to help horses,” state Attorney General Rob McKenna said.

Salstrom allegedly used donations to pay for her own horse and dog-breeding business and used the nonprofit’s credit cards for “questionable” travel and entertainment expenses, according to state officials.

Salstrom and the group entered into agreements that settle the allegations in complaints filed by the state Attorney General’s Office. Salstrom doesn’t admit any wrongdoing as part of the consent decree filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.

She has agreed to pay $5,000 for the state’s attorney costs. People Helping Horses was fined $50,000. The state agreed to suspend the fine if the group complied with the agreement. The nonprofit faces up to $25,000 in fines if it violates the terms of the consent decree.

An investigation was launched in December 2011 after the state Attorney General’s Office received a tip from a concerned citizen.

Investigators learned that People Helping Horses had raised more than $1 million in 2010. They reviewed the group’s fundraising practices. The investigation determined that the organization violated the Charitable Solicitations Act, state officials said.

The group claimed it offered a therapeutic riding program for kids with health problems even though it ended the program, said Sarah Shifley, an assistant attorney general who handled the case.

The nonprofit also advertised that it would partner with schools and other horse programs, when it didn’t, she said.

Additionally, it falsely claimed that it checked up on horses after they were adopted from their shelter, Shifley said.

The nonprofit has agreed to place donations in segregated accounts and use the money for the purposes stated when soliciting the donations.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Turkey talk: Kindergartners explain the Thanksgiving holiday

Our annual pilgrimage led us this year to Pathfinder Kindergarten Center in Everett.

Police locate suspect in Snohomish River after he fled

They used a thermal-imaging camera to locate the man in the water near Dagmars Marina.

Electrical fire on roof of Marysville school extinguished

There was no apparent structural damage to Cascade Elementary School.

As police closed in, 2 heavily armed pot-shop robbers fled

Cops surrounded the place in Mountlake Terrace. The suspects were tracked by dogs and apprehended nearby.

Hiker rescued on Boulder River trail after 15-foot fall

She was reported to have possible leg and rib fractures.

Alleged philanderer attacked with hammer near Everett

His girlfriend had accused him of cheating and allegedly called on another man to confront him.

Snohomish County Council passes a no-new-taxes budget

The spending plan still funds the hiring of five new sheriff’s deputies and a code enforcement officer.

In Sultan, there was a seat at the table for everyone

Every year, the town’s community dinner ensures no one has to dine alone on Thanksgiving.

Most Read