PTA at Monroe school regroups after alleged $13K embezzlement

MONROE — When the Parent Teacher Association was resurrected, the new leaders checked the bank account.

It contained 98 cents.

That discovery at Monroe’s Park Place Middle School led to the arrest earlier this year of the former PTA treasurer. The suspect’s criminal case is ongoing, but the new PTA leaders have been working toward the future.

There isn’t much hope for restitution of the missing $13,000, co-President Sandra Packham said. However, there is progress.

The new PTA group recently wrapped up its first major fundraiser, a cookie dough and magazine sale, with preliminary totals of about $10,000. That’s enough to finance PTA activities for this school year, Packham said.

The fundraiser took about a year to plan. With some of the money, the group provided dinner to staff in October before parent-teacher conferences. Next they will be reviewing applications for small classroom grants for teacher supplies, and running several family game nights, Packham said. They also plan refreshments for the next honor roll assembly in January and maybe a movie night.

The PTA was required to take every possible legal step to recover the stolen money, she said. The PTA wasn’t operational for at least a few months, court papers show. Its insurance had lapsed and didn’t cover the theft, Packham said.

They also tried to get Bank of America to reimburse the loss. The group alleged the bank should have noticed the unusual account activity and should have required two signatures for transactions. The suspect reportedly had obtained a debit card for the account.

A bank spokeswoman said the account was opened without a requirement for two signatures. The PTA has since changed banks and added intense financial oversight, Packham said.

Every purchase needs two people to sign off, and the monthly statements are shared with the entire board, among other measures.

Last school year, PTA activities were down to the “bare minimum,” she said.

“We just struggled through and did what few things we could,” she said.

At the next meeting, in December, the board will talk about ideas for a spring fundraiser.

The school is in need of more Google Chromebooks, for example.

Many people have stepped up to help during the tougher times since the theft. Last spring, Packham gave parents a list of 50 items or chores the PTA needed to host a staff appreciation dinner with a baked potato bar.

The needs were “as simple as signing up for a bag of cheese,” she said. “Every bit of it got signed up.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;

Avoid embezzlement

The Washington State PTA recommends the following financial guidelines for parent groups. The same tips apply to booster clubs and other small nonprofits. For PTA groups, the state organization provides free training for board members on preventing theft and watching for red flags. More info:

Use a budget and keep a ledger. Track all checks, deposits and withdrawals.

Have multiple people share financial responsibilities.

Talk about potential conflicts of interest for board members.

Review and reconcile bank statements.

If you suspect a problem, conduct a financial review and contact the state PTA.

Decide when and how to communicate what happened to the membership. That step must happen at some point.

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