A local Navy wife stands accused of stealing more than $14,000 from the Clear Creek Elementary School Parent Teachers Association and leaving the organization’s savings account empty and the checking account overdrawn.
Authorities claim that Clear Creek PTA treasurer and Silverdale resident Michelle Eley, 30, wrote checks to herself and for cash totaling $14,627 without authorization to do so. Money was also spent through electronic checks written to companies such as Target.
Eley was booked in the Kitsap County Jail for theft in the first degree and later released without bail.
Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Scott Wilson said the case was forwarded to the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office this week following a two-week investigation into the alleged embezzlement.
Tomas Danaher, spokesperson for Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, where Eley’s husband is stationed, said that it would be inappropriate for the Navy to comment on a matter as it is under local jurisdiction.
Eley’s alleged PTA embezzlement is the second to occur in the Central Kitsap School District since 2010 when the former treasurer of Jackson Park Elementary School’s PTA was charged with theft for allegedly embezzling more than $18,000. That money was intended to be spent on reading awards, a sixth-grade graduation ceremony, a book fair and a yearbook.
The Jackson Park PTA embezzlement was invesitaged by Navy criminal investigators.
Nationally, embezzlement by PTA officers is the number one negative problem facing the association.
David Beil, Community Relations Director for SKSD, said district leaders were sorry to hear about the allegation. The state chapter works with local PTA to educate them on these matters, he said.
“We don’t want this to overshadow the important work that occurs every day through PTA members at schools across CK,” he said.
Beil said the district has no authority over PTA finances and that the problem was discovered by the PTA itself. Regardless, CKSD expects to continue a strong partnership with the PTA and offer any support it can to both the PTA and its members, he said.
The president of the Clear Creek PTA first called the sheriff’s office on Sept. 14 after returning for the start of the new school year to find the PTA accounts empty. Desiree Hartman told investigators that she first started to notice something was amiss at the end of the school year in June. Hartman said that Eley blamed the bank for making errors when confronted about the account balances.
According to Hartman and another PTA member, the checks should have required two signatures to be cashed. Investigators said only Eley signed the checks.
In an incident report prepared by the sheriff’s office, Hartman is listed as saying the $14,000 allegedly taken by Eley does not include any “cash deposits that may have been stolen or siphoned off” because no cash deposit slips can be found.
“Hartman said that Eley confessed to the PTA board that she stole $10,000 and that she knew it was wrong,” wrote Deputy Jeff Schaffer in a report on the matter.
Schaffer said that Eley offered to pay back $10,000.
On Sept. 17, Eley turned herself in to deputies at the Kitsap County Jail and invoked her Miranda rights saying she did not want to speak without a lawyer present.
•This version replaces and earlier version