Bremerton school board candidate Wendy Stevens has not responded to multiple requests for comment following her disappearance last week.
A missing person report was filed Wednesday, Sept. 25, after Stevens had last been seen at about 9 a.m. that morning, and she was located Thursday afternoon. A Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office mobile search and rescue command post was set up in the parking lot of the Perry Avenue Mall, just a few blocks from Stevens’ home, while deputies and volunteers searched for her Thursday.
The sheriff’s office refused to provide any paperwork regarding Stevens’ disappearance, citing an ongoing criminal investigation by the Bremerton Police Department into allegations of embezzlement by Stevens at the Naval Avenue PTA where she has volunteered for years.
“The information contained in our report has direct implications to the investigation that is being conducted by Bremerton police,” said Deputy Scott Wilson, a sheriff’s office spokesman. “So, under that caveat of the Revised Code of Washington, the public disclosure requests folks are going to decline to provide you with a report at this point.”
Stevens took to Facebook on Monday night and offered a partial explanation for her disappearance.
“Thanks to all family and friends for help, support or good wishes,” Stevens wrote. “I am now completing recovery at home from the hospital due to an effect of medication for a misdiagnosis which caused horrible reactions when cruel rumors began and I wasn’t able to process as I should have. I now know this ‘safe’ medicine effected many action of late and am taking life slowly from now on.”
Stevens went on to express her appreciation for those that helped her husband and daughter while she was missing. She also noted that she hopes to begin visiting with friends by this weekend and “likely won’t use Facebook until then.”
According to a Bremerton PTSA Council audit, there were 18 different findings of mismanagement regarding the financial books of the Naval Avenue PTA where Stevens held the president position for three years. Allegations indicate that $9,967.83 is missing, according to the audit. The audit was kickstarted by almost $4,000 in overdue PTA bills that showed up over the summer. Stevens, who held onto the books despite numerous requests from the PTSA Council and current Naval Avenue PTA president, Barbie Swainson, turned the financial books over at the beginning of the school year.
The audit also alleges Stevens did not follow state PTA protocol for handling money, such as operating as the sole signer on the account and allowing her husband to sign off on checks when other board members were available. The 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 Washington State PTA Leadership Packet states, “All PTA checks must have two signatures of officers (but not of same household).”
One of the audit findings shows that a check, number 1823, was “written, signed and endorsed by Wendy Stevens on Nov. 8, 2012 in the amount of $350 for a deposit. A handwritten receipt was provided and the total shown on that receipt is $487.25. The difference is $137.25.”
The report states that a “handwritten receipt states this is a reimbursement for a deposit for (the school’s Centennial Celebration). It is for picture printing at the Kitsap Historical Society and states no checks accepted.”
Kitsap Historical Society Museum Executive Assistant Juahela Leiter scoffed at the idea that the museum doesn’t accept checks.
“We not only accept checks, but we accept MasterCard and Visa credit cards,” she said.
Executive Director Patricia Drolet, Ph.D., of the Kitsap Historical Society Museum said she vividly remembers Stevens coming to the museum to request photographs for the Naval Avenue’s Centennial Celebration. Drolet recalled Stevens being argumentative about the reproduction price for the 13 photos, and Drolet said she finally agreed to a lower price for the scanned photographs.
According to Drolet, the photos are to be paid in full before being released to the customer, but that never happened. The museum was also supposed to receive a special yearbook with the scanned photos, but Stevens never dropped off the yearbook like she promised.
Bonnie Chrey, a volunteer researcher for the museum, purchased the special yearbook in advance through Stevens, but never got her copy either. Chrey wanted to give the book to her half sister — now in her 80s — who once attended Naval Avenue. Chrey was also the one who assisted Stevens in handpicking the photographs to be used for the celebration.
“She didn’t pay us anything,” Chrey said, shaking her head when informed about the reimbursement Stevens allegedly gave herself. “She said they (Naval Avenue PTA) didn’t have any money.”
Documents obtained by the Bremerton Patriot confirm that Stevens planned to drop the yearbook off at the museum in the first few weeks of September.
“If you give it to the front desk person, with a note that it is for me, she will see that I get it,” Chrey wrote in an email to Stevens. Stevens replied, “No problem at all!,” but Chrey still had not received the book as of Sept. 20, and stated so in an email to Stevens. The return email from Stevens stated, “I did come by last week when you weren’t there and the lady wasn’t sure where to leave it, so I still have it. The school doesn’t have extra copies. I will be sure to come on Thursday or Friday though so I can give it directly to you!”
As of Oct. 2, Chrey still had not received the book, and neither has the museum, Leiter said. Leiter also contacted the school and left two voicemails this week requesting for the paid copies of the yearbooks, but has not received a call back. According to the school’s new PTA president, there are at least five copies sitting in the PTA filing cabinet.
Staff writer Seraine Page also contributed to this report.