Former transit attorney will pay his debt

"Former Kitsap Transit attorney Richard Stocking is scheduled next week to begin repaying the more than $166,000 he took from the agency in 1998.Stocking signed a repayment agreement in February. He is expected to repay the entire debt by Dec. 15, 2002, beginning with $2,000 monthly payments, increasing incrementally and leading to a nearly $15,500 final balloon payment.Stocking was caught stealing when the Washington State Bar Association performed an audit on Stocking's account and issued a report in May 1999. Stocking, reached at his home last week, said he was forced to take the money when the former member of the Navy Reserves was called to active duty and deployed to the Phillipines during the Persian Gulf War.The deployment, Stocking said, separated him from his law firm for nine months, forcing him to hire another attorney to cover his absence. I could either fire everyone, or go into debt, he said. Stocking used more than $174,000 drawn from the transit account primarily to pay his law firm's payroll and overhead expenses, according to the state bar audit. From July 1998 until December 1998, Stocking drew checks on the trust account, issuing them to the Stocking Law Firm, Richard Stocking, or R. Stocking.Stocking said he was sorry to embarass my agency, but he also called the experience a blessing. It precipitated his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he is in the process of healing. Other transit officials also said Stocking took the money because he was strapped for cash.I think he was taking money because he was in some kind of financial difficulty, Kitsap Transit Finance Director Jim Lundstrom said.Lundstrom is skeptical, though he said he is not a physician or psychologist, of some of Stocking's claims.I don't know that post-traumatic stress disorder would cause someone to steal, he said.Initial payments will come from Stocking's existing income sources, including assets that were exempted from bankruptcy court, according to his attorney, Monte Hester. Future payments will come from future income.The Bar Association suspended Stocking from practicing law following the report, but action to revoke his license has not been taken. His remaining assets were recently released from bankruptcy court, freeing them for Kitsap Transit to pursue. Stocking has reimbursed $71,000 so far, according to Snyder. Kitsap Transit has also issued two promissory notes as collatoral for the money and was named the beneficiary on the nearly $113,700 deed of trust to Stocking's Port Orchard law firm property. The deed of trust entitles Kitsap Transit to receive money from the sale of the property. In addition, should Stocking default, Richard Mann, the attorney who purchased his law firm, will make payments to Kitsap Transit rather than to Stocking.Stocking's mother, Fern, guaranteed her $30,000 estate against the reimbursement plan. His Navy pension - about $2,600 a month - also acts as security. We don't want to own property and we don't want to beat up his mother, but we have these (securities) in case he defaults on payment, Lundstrom said.At the April 11 meeting of the Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners, Kitsap Transit attorney W. Scott Snyder said some had accused the agency of not pursuing reimbursement from Stocking.Suing would have created a judgment we had no ability to collect on, Snyder said. He can't repay a debt from jail.Some transit authorities said Stocking probably took the money with the intent of paying it back. All had a close relationship with the veteran attorney.He goes back to 1983 with (executive director) Dick Hayes. He was legal council when Kitsap Transit was created. He was the only attorney we ever had, Lundstrom said."

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