2 Indian Advocacy Workers Charged
- www.theolympian.com/112/story/94170.html2 Indian advocacy workers charged
by: Venice Buhain
LACEY — Two educators have been charged in Thurston County with embezzling $15,300 over several years from an advocacy group that promotes the education of the state’s American Indian children, according to court documents.
The embezzlement over several years depleted the money of the Washington State Indian Education Association, a 23-year-old organization that includes tribal leaders, public school educators, and teachers and administrators at tribal schools, chairwoman Sally Brownfield said Monday.
“We are going forward,” Brownfield said. “We’re rebuilding.”
Anna-Maria Wilson, 48, of Olympia, the North Thurston Public Schools Indian education coordinator, faces two counts of first-degree theft and five counts of second-degree theft, in the case.
Denise Marie Bill, 45, of Puyallup, listed as an assistant director of Native American Programs, Diversity, Inservice, and Instruction on an Auburn School District Web page, was charged with one count of first-degree theft.
Bill had been the chairwoman of the association and Wilson had been its treasurer until March of last year. In June, other board members reported to the Lacey Police Department that more than $20,000 had been embezzled from the organization’s accounts, according to the charging papers.
The case came to the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office in October, and it took several months to complete the investigation, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim said Monday.
Thurston County investigators found that 11 of the organization’s checks totalling $12,300 were deposited into Wilson’s personal account at TwinStar Credit Union in Tumwater and Lacey between Aug. 27, 2003, and June 1, 2006, according to charging papers signed by Thurston County senior deputy prosecutor Joseph Wheeler. Each of the checks had been written to and signed by Anna Wilson or Anna Bell, her maiden name, he reported.
Wilson also was accused of withdrawing $1,000 from the organization’s account in May 2006, Wheeler reported. Denise Bill was accused of signing one $2,000 check that was deposited into Wilson’s personal account, Wheeler said.
Both Wilson and Bill are scheduled to go to trial the week of June 25, according to charging papers, though there are two court dates scheduled before the trial. All of the charges are felonies.
The organization’s board made the decision to turn the case over to law enforcement after the allegations came to light last year, Brownfield said.
“The board felt they needed to be held responsible,” she said.
Meanwhile, in the past year, the organization has been rebuilding its resources through donations and fundraisers.
The money, which comes from dues and donations from tribes, is used for merit awards for higher education and the high school graduation expenses of tribal students. The group also advocates for changes in the way that American Indian history is taught. Two years ago, the group proposed changes in state law that would require public schools to teach the history of tribes within a 100-mile radius.
“We recently had our state conference, and it worked out very well,” Brownfield said. “We didn’t have as many merit awards as we had in recent years, though we did have two.”
She said that she hoped the news wouldn’t overshadow the work that the organization does for American Indian children.
“This has always been about been about the children, giving a voice to the children that don’t have a voice.”
Venice Buhain covers education for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-754-5445 or vbuhain@....
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