EVERETT — Nearly $50,000 is missing from the Mariner High School Booster Club, and the president of the nonprofit organization said the group’s former treasurer has admitted taking the money.
Detectives with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office believe as much as $48,000 may have been stolen, spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said. “We have a suspect, and that person is cooperating with us,” she said.
No arrests have been made. It’s unclear how long the first-degree theft investigation will take, as financial crimes can take weeks to unravel, Hover said.
Renee Boyd, the Mariner Booster Club president, said she became aware of the missing money two weeks ago when the treasurer called and asked to meet with her about “a serious matter.” Boyd said the long-time volunteer told her that she has a gambling addiction and had been taking money from the booster club since 2001.
“I think things were kind of catching up with her and she just couldn’t cover it any more,” Boyd said.
The booster club president said she had no reason to suspect anything because “her records on paper were immaculate. Everything was to the penny, but the money wasn’t getting into the account.”
A phone message to the former treasurer was not returned Wednesday.
She was a trusted volunteer and there weren’t adequate safeguards in place, Boyd said.
“We have such a small committee,” Boyd said. “It was just kind of a given that she would take care of it.”
In the future, signatures from two board members will be required for every transaction, Boyd said.
The former treasurer is making arrangements to pay the money back, Boyd said.
The booster club serves as an umbrella organization for several Mariner groups raising money for their activities. The list includes athletic teams, travel accounts for individual students in the French club and a committee that organizes graduation night festivities.
News of the missing money hit parents hard.
Michelle Doerscher recalls her daughter, a Mariner sophomore, falling on the ice last winter as she delivered telephone books as part of a fundraising effort to pay for a trip with classmates to France and Switzerland next summer.
The Doerschers are out about $500 that was supposed to be in their daughter’s travel account.
“She is so excited about going and is really, really working hard,” Doerscher said. “I would hate to see if she couldn’t do it because of this.”
Judith Jordan said her family stands to lose $994 toward her daughter’s trip to France. They raised cash from concession sales, phone book deliveries and other activities.
“I’m not sure she will be able to go now,” she said. “We have worked a lot of hours for this money over the last year.”
Mukilteo School District officials said the booster club is not subject to its financial review. By law, the booster club must be totally separate from the district.
A booster club is organized as a nonprofit organization and the money is supposed to be kept separate from Associated Student Body funds, said Mindy Chambers, a spokeswoman for the state auditor’s office.
“The school district’s responsibility would be to monitor on the ASB side to make sure money isn’t commingled, but they wouldn’t go in and audit the booster club’s books unless that is part of an agreement,” Chambers said.
Mukilteo School Board President Judy Schwab has attended a few Mariner Booster Club meetings and sold hot dogs over the years to help the students.
“I am just shocked and disappointed and angry and sad, all of those things,” Schwab said.
The booster club has a meeting set for 7 tonight in the school’s commons, 200 120th St. SW, to discuss what steps to take next.
“Our main goal right now is to start over,” Boyd said. “We have concessions coming up where we have to get people to work. It’s just kind of a matter of picking up and moving on.”
Boyd said she hopes the problems will end up making the booster club stronger.
“On the positive side, I hope we will be able to get more parent support now,” she said.