The Learning Tree of Centralia is open for business, for now.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CENTRALIA – A Centralia child daycare center remains open but its operator is not allowed on the premises following her charges for multiple drug offenses.
Roberta E. Johnson, 50, is the licensee for The Learning Tree of Centralia, a center that cares for children off East Union Street in the south end of town.
Johnson is also the state business license holder for Triple Ds Natural and Alternative Medicines Clinic, an enterprise that authorities allege sold marijuana.
Johnson and Donald E. Smith, 51, were arrested in November when drug detectives served a search warrant at the Grand Mound store front they said was operating as an illegal marijuana dispensary.
The married couple were among 17 individuals picked up when the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force raided five locations in the county.
At the time, the state agency that licenses day care facilities said since Johnson was released without charges following her arrest, there was no action for it to take.
A file was opened but the license remained valid, according to a spokesperson for the state Department of Early Learning.
However, today the state agency contacted Johnson and she agreed she would voluntarily stay off-site while they examine the situation, according to spokesperson Kara Klotz.
Johnson and Smith were charged Friday in Thurston County Superior Court each with 12 counts of delivery of marijuana, 13 counts of unlawful use of a building for drug purposes, one count of possession with intent to deliver and one count of manufacture of marijuana.
The Thurston County Narcotics Task Force said it made numerous undercover purchases of marijuana from Triple Ds.
At the time of the raid, a task force spokesperson said while the state’s medical marijuana law allows patients to grow their own or have a caregiver grow it for them, the law “clearly prohibits the sale of marijuana by anybody, to anybody.”
The pair are expected in court on Tuesday when they will get an opportunity to make their pleas and the court’s conditions of release will be addressed, according to Thurston County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jack Jones.
Johnson hasn’t responded to attempts to contact her.
The Learning Tree was open for business this afternoon, with a half dozen toddlers and an adult seated at a round table chattering.
Forty-three children are currently enrolled there, according to Klotz. The center is authorized to serve little ones ages one through 12.
A woman at The Learning Tree who declined to give her name said she was in charge.
“Right now, it’s my job to protect this business, to make sure we stay open,” the unidentified woman said.
The building that housed Triple Ds along Old Highway 99 has been vacated.
A neighbor, Troy Marrs, said Smith operated a medical marijuana-type center there, but his wife was not involved.
“Straight up, she had nothing to do with the place,” Marrs said. “I know her very well, she’s an awesome person with children; she wouldn’t do nothing to jeopardize that.”
Klotz said Johnson is cooperating with the child care licensing agency.
“She’s working on a plan to keep the center open while she deals with the charges,” Klotz said.
If the agency doesn’t agree with her plan, she will have to shut down, Klotz said.
Also, Johnson will need to undergo another background check, which they don’t expect she will pass, Klotz said.
Triple Ds in Grand Mound is shuttered.