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Bremerton school board candidate is missing

A missing person report has been filed with the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office for Bremerton school board candidate Wendy Stevens.

Calls to the sheriff's office were not immediately returned, but Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan confirmed that Stevens has been reported missing.

"A report was filed with the sheriff's office," Strachan said. "She lives in the Bremerton School District, but doesn't live within the city limits. They (the sheriff's office) have jurisdiction."

Stevens was reportedly last seen around 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, according to one of her campaign supporters. That same supporter says that Stevens' vehicle remains in front of her home, her purse and cell phone were left inside the home and Stevens did not pick up her child from school Wednesday afternoon as expected.

Stevens has worked for the last five years in Parent Teacher Association leadership positions as a local school president and served two years as PTSA Council Treasurer. Questions arose earlier this fall about finances at the Naval Avenue Elementary School PTA where Stevens served as treasurer and an audit was performed. Following that audit, Bremerton police were contacted to look into a possible embezzlement case against Stevens. An interview with detectives was scheduled earlier this week to take place Oct. 1.

"Naval Avenue PTA contacted us in early September with concerns about their finances," said Annie Gambardella, Bremerton PTSA council president. "After researching the issue with them, it appears there were funds that were mismanaged and further investigation by law enforcement is recommended by the Bremerton Council PTSA."

The PTA started receiving past due bills this summer that should have been paid last year, according to current president Barbie Swainson. Swainson, who under PTA rules could not open the bills on her own, had Gambardella meet her to open the organization's mail.

According to Washington State PTA rules, financial documents and books should be turned over on June 30 for financial review. According to Swainson and Gambardella, Stevens did not turn over the books until early September.

According to some of the audit documents provided to the Patriot, on more than one occasion, Stevens wrote and signed checks to herself for several hundred dollars. Concerned PTA officials say that almost $10,000 was unaccounted for when the school year began.

When contacted Tuesday night by the Patriot, Stevens said she was not aware of any alleged improprieties involving PTA funds. On Tuesday evening, Stevens said she was not contacted about any issues with the books, and was shocked that such findings were mentioned without her knowledge.

“I absolutely had no idea about it," Stevens said regarding the alleged improprieties. "I have not been contacted that it was done incorrectly.”

Stevens also said that even though she was PTA president, she filled in where she could to help with the finances because “we just did not have a board...we didn’t have a lot of people who wanted to help out.”

Reporter Kevan Moore contributed to this report.

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