The San Juan Community Theatre has filed a civil complaint against former employee Mary Blevins for breach of contract and conversion-misappropriation of money and property.
Blevins, a San Juan Island resident, is accused of embezzling $48,000 from the nonprofit based in Friday Harbor. The complaint was filed on Jan. 13 in San Juan County Superior Court.
The defendant was hired as a part-time bookkeeper in 2001; in 2009 she became the full-time business manager; and in 2012, she was promoted to chief administrative officer, responsible for all purchasing, payroll, payment of vendors and artists, bookkeeping, banking and business record-keeping. As CFO, Blevins had signature authority on the theatre’s checking account and access to business credit cards. The theatre, founded in 1984, is supported by donors and grants.
Blevins was terminated from her position on Oct. 20, 2016 for job performance issues, according to the theatre’s attorney, Rock Sorensen of Friday Harbor. She agreed to $7,000 gross pay per month for consulting services for three months following her termination.
According to court documents, in mid-December theatre staff encountered a problem with the payroll software because it had been registered directly to Blevins and not the theatre – even though it was purchased using a theatre credit card. The software company was able to resolve the issue, but staff was compelled to review previous credit card and banking statements to look for other issues. They discovered a large number of transactions from Amazon.com and other payments that were not related to theatre business. The plaintiff alleges that Blevins used theatre funds to pay for propane bills; federal income tax for Blevins and her husband; medical and dental expenses and health premiums; clothing, shoes, purses, children’s toys, books and knitting supplies coded as “volunteer expenses” and “office supplies”; payment to Evans Funeral Chapel for cremation services; and ferry tickets. Many transactions had “unusual handwritten codes” next to the charges, which didn’t match the referenced expenditures. According to the theatre, fraudulent transactions from 2011 to 2016 total $48,000.
Sorensen says they have turned over all documents to the nonprofit’s insurance company, which will conduct its own investigation. The theatre voluntarily deposited Blevins’ final payment of $7,000 to the registry of the court until the civil complaint is resolved.
“We have not closed the investigation on our end or in respect to the insurance carrier,” Sorensen said. “We are hopeful that this matter will ultimately be resolved, and the theatre hopes to be reimbursed the money it is owed.”
The San Juan County Prosecutor and Sheriff’s Office are also looking into the allegations, which could result in criminal charges.
“We are investigating and still putting the case together,” said Sheriff Ron Krebs.
Blevins is being represented by Stephen Brandli of Friday Harbor. He released the following statement: “Mary Blevins has lived, worked and volunteered in this community for many years. We ask the community to treat Ms. Blevins and her family with compassion while we cooperate in the investigation of these allegations and put right any wrongs that Ms. Blevins is responsible for.”