Sunday, February 9, 2014

Former IW Education Association leader arrested on embezzlement charge in Virginia

A Smithfield woman who once led the Isle of Wight County Education Association was arrested Monday on a charge of embezzling $43,248.48 from the local organization’s account.

“Stephanie Bailey brought herself in,” said Smithfield Police Department’s Lt. Patrick Valdez about the event that day.

He said that John O’Neil, director of communications for the Virginia Education Association, had contacted the Smithfield police, which followed up with an investigation.

“Her claim was she gave the money to the homeless and students in need,” said Valdez. That money came from dues that Bailey had been collecting, he added.

“But she won’t give any names. I think that’s going to be the crux. She was unable to answer satisfactorily. Had she receipts… but she’s unable to account for any of it.”

Bailey, who served as president of the Isle of Wight Education Association from 2006 until August 2013, was released on her own recognizance.

Elizabeth Stahlman, of the Suffolk Magistrate’s Office 5th Judicial District, explained that means a person signs a document swearing she or he will appear in court on an appointed day.

An arraignment for Bailey is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, in Isle of Wight County General District Court.

O’Neil emailed a press statement in response to questions from The Tidewater News.

“We have learned that Smithfield police recently arrested Stephanie Bailey, a former officer of the Isle of Wight Education Association, on charges that she misappropriated Association funds.

“We consider the charges to be very serious. The VEA initiated an internal inquiry last fall that led to the subsequent investigation by the Smithfield Police Department. We have fully cooperated with their investigation. Any further action will be determined by the prosecutor’s office.

“VEA will continue to work with the local Association to ensure that its assets are protected, and we anticipate reimbursement of funds from our insurance carrier. No school or tax dollars are involved.

“All Association members in Isle of Wight should know that they will continue to receive all of the member services they rely upon, such as advocacy and representation, professional training, and more.

“At present, we can have no further comment on the issue.”

The county school system also had limited reaction.

“The Isle of Wight County School division has no involvement in this situation,” said spokeswoman Kenita Bowers. “Due to state code and school division policy, we are unable to comment on this matter.”

Bowers did confirm that Bailey had been a school nurse at Windsor High School, and was working as such when the arrest occurred. She’s no longer an employee.
 The former president of the Isle of Wight Education Association has been charged with embezzling more than $40,000 of the group's funds.

Stephanie Bailey was arrested Monday for allegedly embezzling $43,248.48 from the Isle of Wight Education Association, an independent professional group for schools employees, between January 2011 and August 2013, according to Sgt. Chris Meier with the Smithfield Police Department.

Meier said Bailey, who served as the local association president from 2006 until her resignation in 2013, never denied taking the money and told police she was giving it to the needy.

"Basically what she's saying is she gave it to homeless people, she gave it to teachers who were in need and some of it went to student scholarships," Meier said. Police, however, were unable to verify where the money went once it left the local association's accounts.

There's no proof (of Bailey giving it away), she won't give us names of students she gave scholarships to, nothing," Meier said.

Bailey could not be immediately reached for comment.

Bailey was a school nurse, most recently at Windsor High School, and had been with the school division since 1991. Isle of Wight Schools officials confirmed that Bailey is no longer employed by the school division but could not discuss details related to her departure.

Ted Warner, the director of the Virginia Education Association office that coordinates the local associations of nine southeastern Virginia counties, said in a statement that the VEA considers the charges to be "very serious." He said the group launched an internal investigation last fall. No school or tax dollars were involved, according to Warner.

Meier said the VEA brought the case to the Smithfield Police in December. He said the group had become aware of a series of unauthorized withdrawals from the local association's accounts going back to January 2011, which continued on a nearly monthly basis until August 2013.

After an internal investigation and efforts to reconcile the withdrawals with Bailey, the group handed over hundreds of bank documents to the Smithfield Police, Meier said.

An arraignment hearing for Bailey has been scheduled for Feb. 13 in Isle of Wight General District Court. If convicted, she faces as much as 20 years in prison.

VEA officials could not say definitively how long Bailey had been the head of the local association. John O'Neil, VEA's communications director, said she had served as president for "several years" before resigning in 2013.

The position is now open and there is no timeline for filling the post.

Note: The Isle of Wight Education Association, an independent advocacy group, should not be confused with the Education Foundation for Isle of Wight Public Schools, a non-profit corporation directly affiliated with Isle of Wight Public Schools.

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