By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
Chehalis police have been asked to get involved in reviewing the financial records of the Lewis County Historical Museum, following revelations its endowment fund of more than $400,000 was spent.
The four officers on the 13-member museum board were replaced last night by four new individuals, in a change that came after a general membership meeting of the museum last week when members learned there was no money left in the endowment fund, according to new board president, John Panesko.
It’s a fund meant to be left untouched, so it could generate interest which could be used, according to Panesko.
Panesko said the money should not have been spent without the knowledge of the board or museum members and now they are looking for answers.
“Was it done for the right reasons, or the wrong reasons,” Panesko said. “That’s why we’re looking through the records to see where the money went and who spent it.”
Dennis Dawes, a continuing board member, asked the police department to look at the finances of the museum, Chehalis detective Sgt. Rick McNamara said today.
Dawes, accountant Tom Bradley and McNamara met yesterday to discuss four years worth of records, according to police.
“It’s something we’re looking at right now,” McNamara said. “I don’t know what’s going to transpire, if anything.”
Police Chief Glenn Schaffer and McNamara said the department won’t be doing anything further with the financial records until after the accountant goes through them and puts them in a format that can be evaluated.
“What they’re doing is getting our office involved, early on, at the beginning,” Schaffer said. “(In case) if it does go that route.”
Dawes, a non-elected board member who represents the city of Chehalis, had been asked by the board to secure the records and have them reviewed by a certified public accountant, according to Panesko. Dawes is a Chehalis City Council member and a former deputy police chief.
Bradley volunteered to go over the books, Panesko said. Bradley will reconcile them, and another accountant will audit them afterward, he said.
The museum, which resides in a former rail station on Northwest Front Way, is in the red by about $14,000, according to Pansko. The books haven’t been in balance since 2008, he said.
Panesko said the board’s bylaws aren’t clear as to what authority the officers have in spending, without the approval of the rest of the board. He suggested the radical changes may not have taken place if the answers the membership were given were not evasive and incomplete.
The former officers are president Kathy Gavin, vice president Walt King, treasurer Aileen Carlson and secretary Pam Elder.
The museum has been shut down temporarily, and it’s bank accounts have been closed, Panesko said.
“We’ve locked down everything to have impartial people look at it,” he said.