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Woman who allegedly stole from booster club also owed money to others

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman, News Writer

The woman charged with stealing more than $6,000 from the Woodinville High School Music Boosters allegedly had dishonest dealings with other people, according to people who’ve worked with her.

Deana Maureen Palmer, also known as Deana Drake, was charged with first-degree felony theft for allegedly stealing from the WHS Music Boosters during the 2012-2013 school year, when she served as the group’s treasurer. Banner Bank reported suspicious activity after Palmer made unauthorized cash withdrawals and wrote checks to her private company, Eastside Women’s Show, from the Music Boosters’ account, according to court documents.

Palmer was also convicted of felony theft in 2005 for faking a sale of phones, for which she received a commission of more than $10,000, when she worked as a Nextel Communications account executive, court documents state.

Bob McCaslin, head coach for the Flame Fastpitch softball club, met Palmer about a year ago when she became active on the team after her daughter joined. She never paid him the $1,100 player fee, McCaslin said, and owes more money that she offered to donate.

He said Palmer offered to help raise money for travel and equipment for the team. They made a deal: the kids on the team would do volunteer work for her company, Eastside Women’s Show, and she would donate $800 to the team. The players volunteered as planned, but Palmer never donated the money, McCaslin said. When he confronted her, she made excuses.

"She kept saying, ‘The check’s in the mail,’ ‘The bank says it’s cashed,’ ‘I’ll send you a copy,’" he recalled.

He talked to an attorney, who said it would be a civil rather than a criminal matter because Palmer didn’t steal the alleged $1900; she just didn’t pay it in the first place.

"I fully expect that our organization will not receive any funds," McCaslin, who ended up paying the money himself. "It’s about principle. I do not like being duped by anybody."

Lisa Caldwell also met Palmer through their daughters’ softball team, and  said Palmer owes her money. Caldwell said that Palmer offered her a job managing social media accounts for the Eastside Women’s Show, which Caldwell accepted.

After Caldwell had been working for Palmer for a month, her first scheduled pay day passed without a check. Caldwell emailed, called and texted Palmer asking for her paycheck, but Palmer ignored her or made excuses, Caldwell said.

"Finally, I said, ‘I’m driving up, and I’m just going to sit on your porch,’" Caldwell recalled.

But when she drove from her home in Maple Valley to Palmer’s home in Woodinville and got a check — the check bounced.

After several more attempts to get her paycheck, Caldwell said Palmer "finally informed me that she didn’t have the money to pay me for the job."

Caldwell filed a claim with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), and is waiting to see if she’ll get the money.

This year’s Eastside Women’s Show was advertised as taking place at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. But Tim Carr, director of operations for the Meydenbauer Center, learned about that the hard way.

Vendors and attendees called the center with questions about the event, he said, although Palmer hadn’t booked the center.

"We can’t have people saying there’s events here when it’s not," Carr said. "Our concern is for attendees and vendors."

Meydenbauer Center representatives informed people the event wasn’t happening and asked the event organizers to stop advertising that it was at the Meydenbauer Center, and "to the best of our knowledge, it was complied with," Carr said.

The Eastside Women’s Show website now says the event is scheduled for February 2014 at the Bellevue Hyatt.

Although Palmer seems to have a pattern of allegedly stealing or not paying money she owes, the WHS Music Boosters didn’t know about her previous conviction for theft because she may not have been required to do a background check, Corinne Lawson, the 2012-2013 president of the WHS Music Boosters, said.

The Northshore School District requires anyone who will be volunteering with kids to have a background check, but "outside organizations" such as the WHS Music Boosters (a nonprofit organization) are responsible for vetting their own volunteers, Leanna Albrecht, NSD communications director, said.

Only volunteers who work at school events or directly with children have to do NSD’s background check (conducted by the Washington State Patrol.)

Lawson said that before Palmer’s alleged theft, the Music Boosters didn’t have their own background check, and she’s not sure if Palmer had a background check.

Most parents had already done NSD’s background check for other volunteer work, so no one in the Music Boosters thought to create a separate background check procedure for the group.

"As parents, we always assume that everyone’s done it, because we’ve done it," Lawson said.

She added that even if Northshore did require a background check for booster club volunteers, it wouldn’t have been her responsibility as the Music Boosters president to make sure Palmer had been checked. School staff check to make sure volunteers’ forms are on file when volunteers sign in at the front office.

Now, the Music Boosters have changed their policy. They do a background check on board members through WATCH, Washington Access to Criminal History, which charges $10.

"We were a very trusting group," Lawson said. "We looked at each other and thought we were doing it for the good of the kids."

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