Sunday, May 14, 2017

March 2017 - North Carolina: Candace Christopherson, former director of the Carteret County Humane Society and Animal Shelter, under investigation for embezzling more than $100,000 from the non-profit

NORTH CAROLINA -- The State Auditor says the former director of the Carteret County Humane Society and Animal Shelter embezzled more than $100,000 from the non-profit shelter by making personal purchases on the shelter's credit cards and misappropriating some of the shelter's cash receipts

The State Auditor's Office has turned its findings over to the Carteret County District Attorney's Office to determine whether criminal charges should be filed in the case

According to an audit released today, the former director spent more than $67,000 on personal expenses including steaks, gas, a Netflix subscription, online dating and her child’s daycare.

Auditors also found that more than $44,000 in cash generated by the shelter's activities wasn't deposited in the organization's bank account between January 2015 and last September.

The audit did not name the director, but says the 2,243 credit card purchases took place between January 2014 and July of 2016. Several news stories in recent years listed Candace Christopherson as shelter director.

According to the website, the shelter takes in over 3,200 animals each year.

The audit listed the following examples of questionable purchases:

Convenience store purchases totaling $15,617
The former Shelter Director purchased personal items including gas, cigarettes, cigars, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, sodas, candy, snacks, dairy products, and other general merchandise. According to a Shelter employee, the former Shelter Director was also seen purchasing fuel for a friend using the Shelter’s credit card.

Questionable purchases at Walmart totaling $8,496
The former Shelter Director used the Sam’s Club credit card to purchase clothing, groceries, and baby supplies at Walmart.

Purchases included New York strip steaks, baby back ribs, Visa gift cards, diapers, an Easy Bake Oven child's toy, women's capri pants, over-the-counter medications, and toiletries among other personal items.

Questionable expenditures at restaurant and fast food establishments totaling $4,318
A review of the credit card expenditures revealed a total of 156 charges for meals over a 30-month period. Interviews with current and former Shelter employees and the former Shelter Director indicated that some of the meals were personal. In addition, the former Shelter Director could not produce receipts or a documented business purpose for the majority of meal charges.

Other Personal Expenditures
A review of the Shelter’s credit card statements showed that the former Shelter Director spent:

  • $11,343 on phone purchases and cellular services through Verizon and other carriers
  • $6,529 for local car rentals from Avis and Enterprise and personal auto insurance
  • $5,995 for utilities, a storage rental unit, and temporary living arrangements including the Hostess House and Holiday Inn Express
  • $3,200 for her children’s day care
  • $3,000 for a down payment on a Chevrolet Traverse for her personal use
  • $950 on entertainment including sporting goods, Xbox Live, Redbox, Netflix, online dating, movie tickets, and a WWE pay-per-view event
  • Four deposits to correctional facility inmate account(s) totaling $558

The report says the former director had 3 credit cards the shelter’s board did not know about. They have since canceled the cards.

The treasurer of the shelter’s board didn’t maintain adequate oversight of the shelter’s credit cards, the audit report states. The fact that the treasurer didn’t review monthly credit card statements allowed the director to misuse the cards for some time without being caught, the report states.

“When investigators asked the Treasurer if she had reviewed the credit card statements, she responded, ‘I just don’t have time to do that,'” according to the report. “She added that she just tore off the bottom portion of the statement so she could pay the outstanding balance,” the report says.

"A shelter employee said all cash collected was kept in a locked drawer in the former shelter director’s office. The employee added she would see cash in the locked drawer one day, and the next day it would be replaced with a 'sticky note' from the former shelter director indicating that she owed the shelter money," the audit states. "Another shelter employee stated she witnessed the former shelter director separating the cash from shelter sales receipts and placing the cash in her back pocket."

The former director couldn't explain the missing cash and didn't have receipts to document the purpose of her various purchases, according to the audit.

Auditors criticized the shelter for its lax fiscal controls, noting that the former director continued to charge personal items to shelter credit cards even after she resigned and that another $1,000 was stolen from the shelter's cash drawer last December when the new director was out of the office.

Mark Mansfield, chairman of the Carteret County Board of Commissioners, said the county now requires the shelter to submit monthly financial statements and a full annual audit to county officials in order to obtain county funding.

I have to question the reasoning of whoever hired her as the Shelter Director for the Carteret County Humane Society and Animal Shelter. Looking at her LinkedIn profile, I'm wondering what experience she had? If you were sitting there, looking to hire for the position, and Candace's resume landed on your desk, would you have hired her for the Director's position? 

Her previous job is listed as being a sales associate at a boat store. Her description of her job duties sounds more like an administrative assistant position. Yet that was enough for the Carteret County Humane Society and Animal Shelter to pick her over all the other possible candidates for such an important job at the shelter. 

I'm not saying everyone has to have a college degree, but what experience did she have? I could see it if she had started at the bottom as a kennel worker (walking dogs, cleaning cages/litter boxes, etc.) and worked her way to the top. That's an admirable goal -- someone with the dedication to learn everything they can about where they work, take every opportunity to move up and get more responsibility (and pay). But it doesn't look like it here.

On the other hand, maybe she did do just that - and on LinkedIn didn't break it down to list all the different positions she had at the shelter before being named the Director. Either way, it's a shame because she was given the brass ring and stole from the people who trusted her (allegedly). That's worse, I think, than criminals who steal from strangers. 

If she's convicted, she's basically poison - no one is going to hire her at the salary she was making. I don't know exactly what she was making but I know of another Shelter Director who worked at a non-profit who made like $55k/year - and in a Southern state, not like NYC where salaries are much higher due to the higher cost of living. If anything, she might be able to get another 'sales associate' job paying $14/hr. This means the shelter, which relies on donations to save animals, will never get repaid for the money she (allegedly) stole. 

Candace Christopherson
Shelter Director at Carteret County Humane Society, Inc & Animal Shelter
Newport, North CarolinaNonprofit Organization Management
Current: Carteret County Humane Society, Inc & Animal Shelter
Previous: Coral Bay Marina, NEXTEL
Education: Forest Grove High School, Forest Grove OR

Shelter Director
Carteret County Humane Society, Inc & Animal Shelter
September 2005 – Present (11 years 9 months)
I wear all hats! From cleaning to Grant writing..... and still love what I do!

"Be their voice..........."

"One paw at a time..... We ARE changing the world!"

Sales Associate
Coral Bay Marina
2003 – 2004 (1 year)
As Sales Associate I was in charge of entering, proofing and preparing all paperwork, pictures and schedules of maintenance of New and used boats being placed for sale. Assisting salesmen with all needed paperwork for sales of boats, trade-ins and new boat ordering, checking and posting on line. Scheduling of maintenance and upgrades.

In charge of advertising from local to billboards, billing for reimbursements. Employee time cards, day to day operations. Customer Service, cash handling and daily mail runs and to do lists.

Corporate Account Specialist
1999 – 2002 (3 years)
Assisted the Corporate Accounts manager with any project asked of me. Training classes for new customers, billing and technical issues of phones for all of the managers accounts. Assisted with multiple projects that were to be completed at same time, multi tasked with 2 computers, 4 landline phone system as well as 2 cell phones. Learned all available phones for sale, able to troubleshoot for all accounts in and out of state.

Direct contact with warehouse and tech teams. Reports and statistics for each business account, change plans as needed.

(WNCN -  March 16, 2017)


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