School board candidate has history of theft

Bremerton school board candidate Wendy Stevens. - Courtesy photo
Bremerton school board candidate Wendy Stevens.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Allegations that Bremerton school board candidate Wendy Stevens stole money from the Naval Avenue Parent Teacher Association before disappearing Sept. 26 after being questioned about the alleged embezzlement is not her first run-in with the law.

Prior to moving to Bremerton, Stevens was caught on video stealing $1,000 cash from a Target store where she worked on Factoria Boulevard in Bellevue.

Stevens, then going by the name of Wendy Winn, got a deferred sentence for theft in the second degree and paid a $500 fine, according to King County Superior Court records.

Incomplete records from the Bellevue Police Department, which claims to excise records after six years, show that Stevens was arrested at the store at 5 p.m. March 30, 2001, and security camera footage showed her stealing $1,000 cash from a register.

"I have no other documents, that is all that survives because it was in her ID packet," said Ingrid Boswell, a Bellevue Police Department support specialist. "When she was arrested, she was photographed and fingerprinted, and the first page of the report was slipped into the ID packet."

A judgement and order deferring Stevens' sentence was entered February 11, 2002, in King County Superior Court and she was ordered to pay $500. Stevens made that payment Feb. 6, 2003.

The Bremerton School District, which has employed Stevens in the past, has not turned over any of her personnel records following a request by the Patriot. The district has also refused to turn over any background checks it has done on Stevens, directing this newspaper to the Washington State Patrol instead.

Beyond her Bellevue arrest, the Patriot has learned that Stevens was taken to Kitsap County Superior Court Feb. 16, 2007, in order to be evicted from her Port Orchard home. The court's finding of facts show that on Feb. 10, 2007, Stevens wrote a $750 check for rent that was returned for non-sufficient funds.

In her response to the eviction notice, Stevens said she was a single mother with a baby and living paycheck to paycheck. She told the court she would pay off the $750 and move out of the residence, but also asked the court for leniency by waiving any other fines and late fees. The court did not grant that request and on March 2, 2007, ordered Stevens to pay $1,369.05.

It still is not clear whether Stevens is actively seeking a seat on the school board. Repeated calls and emails to Stevens for comment have not been returned. Stevens' campaign website, however, appears to have been deactivated at some point on Wednesday morning.

Stevens went missing at around 9 a.m. on Sept. 26 and her family filed a missing person report with the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office. Requests for that report have been denied pending a criminal investigation by the Bremerton Police Department regarding the allegations that Stevens embezzled money from the Naval Avenue PTA, where she served as president for three years.

Questions about Stevens' role in missing funds at the Naval Avenue PTA emerged following an audit of the organization by the Bremerton PTSA Council. The audit was initiated after $4,000 of unpaid bills showed up over the summer for the school, reported new PTA president Barbie Swainson.

According to Deputy Scott Wilson, a Kitsap County Sheriff's Office spokesman, several deputies were involved in the search and rescue operation following Stevens' disappearance. They included a patrol deputy who took the missing person report, a sheriff's office detective and two deputies assigned as search and rescue (SAR) coordinators, who made preparations for a ground search and coordinated SAR volunteer searchers and K-9 teams. Wilson said that the approximate cost for the SAR operation was about $439.

"This number does not account for operational costs associated with assigned sheriff's patrol vehicles or a detective's unmarked unit," Wilson said.

Wilson said that Stevens was found by a friend at Illahee State Park and taken to Harrison Medical Center for evaluation where she was interviewed by a sheriff's office detective for one hour.

Reporter Kevan Moore contributed to this story.

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