Former principal arrested for theft

Prosecutor says kindergarten funds stolen

COUPEVILLE — The former principal of South Whidbey Primary School was charged Monday for allegedly stealing kindergarten funds from the South Whidbey School District.

Bernie Mahar was charged with one count of first-degree theft and four counts of second-degree theft for taking a total of $5,100 in school funds, said deputy prosecutor Eric Ohme.

Her arraignment is scheduled for

July 30.

If found guilty, Mahar could face 12 to 14 months in prison on the first-degree theft charge, Ohme said. For the lesser counts, the standard range is three to eight months in jail.

Few details of the alleged crime were made public before this week.

Mahar was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 25 for what district Superintendent Fred -- called an investigation on a “management issue” related to a theft of funds. She resigned from her position a few days later.

According to court records, a school district business secretary noticed a bank transmittal was incomplete and had other discrepancies on Jan. 17.

When she looked deeper into the issue, she found more discrepancies and reported her findings to Dan Poolman, the school district’s business manager.

The business secretary later confronted Mahar. Mahar then said she didn’t want her staff to have to go through the records with the auditor coming, and that she would personally write a check to replace the funds.

Mahar also asked district officials to keep the discrepancy secret and not report it to the state.

However, McCarthy contacted the Island County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 25, according to court documents.

When confronted by a sheriff’s deputy, Mahar said she had lied to the secretary because she was “scared to death.”

Mahar allegedly told police that she took checks from one account and deposited them into another account to reconcile it, and then got personal cash to balance it.

During the interview with the deputy, Mahar admitted to manipulating several deposits and said nobody else in the office had been involved.

“She said it was a desperate act and a bad mistake,” according to affidavit of probable cause.

The school district determined that discrepancies occurred between January and November in 2006.

Sheriff deputies later found numerous checks signed by Mahar that were written from the South Whidbey Primary Fund to herself or to husband Daniel Vorhis.

The checks include one written for $2,700 in August 2006 and one for $1,350 in September. Also two checks for $300 each were written in October and December, as well as a $450 check in September written to Mahar.

Whether Vorhis will face charges for his involvement is not clear.

“I don’t want to comment on any investigations,” Ohme said Tuesday. “With the information I have at this time, he is not being charged with any crimes.”

Mahar turned herself in to authorities at the Island County jail on April 5 with her attorney Peter Moote.

Mahar was arrested for theft in the first degree, four counts of theft in the second degree, and for money laundering.

She was fingerprinted, photographed and released without bail on her own recognizance.

The district has not yet hired a new principal for the primary school.

Jan McNeeley, a teacher at South Whidbey Primary School, was named to replace Mahar as director at the primary school.

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