Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lake Oswego groups attempt to recover from stolen funds, loss of community trust


Local non-profit group leaders say the jailing of a woman who stole an estimated $100,000 from their organizations won’t compensate for the lost money, opportunities and trust from the community.

“It’s not going to be easy,” said Chris Casebeer, President of Lake Oswego Youth Football. “Besides the money gone, which is going to take us years to recover from, it’s hard to know that this took place because of a mother in our neighborhood.”

The loss has forced the football league to cut back on financial assistance to kids who otherwise couldn’t afford the $300-$350 registration fee. The organization typically offers up to 20 scholarships a year, Casebeer said, but they now have to offer payment plans instead. The loss could also have future impacts on how the league pays for updating equipment for kids, using city fields and other effects.

“The effect has been immediate and it will be ongoing,” said Casebeer.

renae-mason.jpgView full sizeRenae Mason
Renae Marlee Mason, 45, was sentenced to five years in prison last week in Clackamas County Circuit Court after pleading guilty in June to six counts of theft charges. She admitted taking money from Lake Oswego Junior Baseball, Lake Oswego Youth Football and the Lake Oswego Junior High School Parent Club while serving as a volunteer treasurer for all three organizations until January.

She spent the money mostly on herself, according to court documents, including an almost $1,800 stay at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square and shopping sprees at Tommy Bahamas, Victoria’s Secret, Sephora and others. Kevin Davenport, Mason’s attorney, attributed Mason’s behavior as a result of side-effects from abusing pain medication.

Chuck McLaughlin, president of Lake Oswego Junior Baseball, said his group discovered some unusual account transfers soon after Mason became their treasurer last October.

“It definitely raised red flags with us when we noticed some heavy activity on our account when there was no baseball being played,” McLaughlin said.

He said Mason took $5,000 from their reserve fund, leaving about $1,000. McLaughlin said once members of his group noticed money missing, they alerted the other groups where Mason acted as treasurer. Once the other groups noticed missing funds as well, Lake Oswego police were notified. McLaughlin said the money taken from the group, which acts as a baseball league for 7th- and 8th-graders, did not have much of an effect on their season.

“We weren’t hit as hard as some of the other groups,” he said. “But the whole thing is really just a sad and disappointing situation.”

The group that was impacted the most was Lake Oswego Youth Football, which starts this season $15,000 in the hole, according to Casebeer.

He said Mason took $85,000 from the group and said that she had been stealing from the group since she became treasurer in late 2007.

New safeguards have been put into place to make sure a similar incident does not occur, he added. He believes all three groups have had to deal with disappointment from the community.

“People trusted us to take care of the money given to us,” he said. “When you have someone in your system that is not being trustworthy, it ruins the trust of not only your organization, but the community as a whole.”

Denise Smith, former president of the Lake Oswego Junior High School Parent Club, said the group has had to deal with similar community concerns since Mason stole a little more than $30,000 from the club after becoming treasurer last July.

“It certainly caused people to second guess where their money is going, and we initially had a hard time finding people to fill key roles in our group,” said Smith. “But we have found people capable of taking over, and I think in time we will all be able to recover from this

No comments:

Post a Comment