Foundation acts to protect its finances

Published 11:13 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2008

By Staff
Embezzlement brings about several changes
Staff Writer
A new director of development spelled the end of Jeanne Jones’ embezzlement from the Beaufort County Hospital Foundation, officials said.
The foundation has turned its funds over to the North Carolina Community Foundation for management, said Frank Belote, vice chairman of the Beaufort County Hospital Foundation’s board of directors.
Jones pleaded guilty Aug. 19 to embezzling more than $87,000 from the Beaufort County Hospital Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that helps purchase amenities and equipment for the hospital.
Jones embezzled the money between 2000 and 2006 while employed by the hospital and assigned to work for the foundation, authorities said.
Jones — who filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in October 2001, according to court documents — wasn’t caught until later. She was suspended from her job with the foundation in November 2007 and resigned the same month.
She orchestrated her theft by creating legitimate-looking expenses in the foundation’s accounting system, then writing checks to cash, said Tom Anglim, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case.
Jones’ liberties with the foundation’s checking account came to a halt when a new employee was hired.
Jones reported to the director of development, another hospital employee assigned to the foundation, hospital spokeswoman Pam Shadle said.
Harley Dartt, director of development for most of the period the embezzlement occurred, said he couldn’t remember exactly when he worked for the hospital.
He was a hospital employee from June 1, 2000, to Dec. 27, 2005, Shadle said.
The embezzlement began in August 2000 and ended February 2006, authorities said.
Kiri Ruquoi was hired to replace Dartt on Jan. 16, 2006, Shadle said.
Dartt declined to discuss the financial affairs of the foundation during his tenure there on the grounds that he is no longer employed by the hospital.
Ruquoi eventually noticed discrepancies in the foundation’s books, Shadle said.
The week of Nov. 12, 2007, Ruquoi asked for an examination of the foundation’s books, Shadle said.
The hospital’s CFO, Chris Riggs, is a certified internal auditor, but the hospital did not traditionally do audits of the foundation, Shadle said.
Washington police Chief Mick Reed said Lynn Lewis, chairwoman of the foundation’s board, called him and asked for an investigation of the matter.
Reed declined to comment on specifics of how the theft occurred. It is department policy not to revisit the technical aspects of cases that have been disposed of, he said.
The department’s investigation eventually led to Jones’ plea deal in August, in which she agreed to repay the stolen funds in exchange for probation and a suspended prison sentence.
In the embezzlement’s aftermath, the hospital foundation decided to hand its funds over to the North Carolina Community Foundation.
That foundation is a statewide charity that helps other groups or people administer charitable endowment funds, said Beth Boney Jenkins, NCCF’s vice president for affiliate services.
Belote said the move is designed to reorganize the hospital foundation’s internal structure and eliminate administrative expenses, not a reaction to the embezzlement.
The hospital foundation will draw funds from NCCF to make donations to the hospital and fund scholarships for community residents to the LifeStyles Medical Fitness Center at the hospital.
Those expenses will be paid from principal, Belote said, as the foundation works to let interest accrue.
Belote said he expects all hospital employees who were assigned to the foundation to remain employed and work at the hospital.
He hopes the new arrangement will reassure the community the foundation’s money is in good hands.
Lewis said the new arrangement will ensure the security of the hospital foundation’s funds.
Jones, through her lawyer, Wayland J. Sermons Jr., declined to comment for this article.