Judge ousts executives, orders emergency takeover of Pierce County veterans charity

The Washington state attorney general’s office has asked a judge to seize a longtime veterans’ charity after a KING 5 investigation found misappropriated funds.

For the first time in state history, the Washington State Office of the Attorney General asked a court to take control of a charity, citing the organization’s “gross negligence”, “mismanagement” and “deliberate misconduct” by the association’s leader which led to a ” crisis”.

Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner Marc Gelman agree with the state’s position regarding the Washington Veterans Independent Businesses (VIEW), which is based at University Place. On Monday, the Commissioner signed a emergency order who named a Seattle-based lawyer and an Army veteran Daniel Bugbee like a “receiver” resume operation immediately. Bugbee has considerable experience in this area of ​​law.

Immediately after the hearing, Bugbee ordered associates to freeze VIEW bank accounts, the locks on all VIEW doors were changed, and a team of investigators from the Attorney General’s office converged on the offices to begin going through the files. .

“We want to make sure that from now on it’s all top-down,” Bugbee said. “I want to make sure that causes like this, especially for veterans, are preserved and their integrity maintained.”

VIEW has served poor and disabled veterans in the Pierce County area for more than 30 years. They provide accommodation and job refurbishment equipment under long-standing contracts with Boeing.

But to get the order to seize the operation, Assistant Attorney General Josh Studor filed a complaint claiming that the charity has failed to fulfill its mission since the army veteran and convicted criminal Rosemary Hibbler of Tacoma was in charge of operations and finance. The deputy AG also said the two board members overseeing VIEW knew about the misconduct but did not intervene.

“Many of VIEW’s challenges can be attributed to Rosemary Hibbler. As chief operating officer, Hibbler embezzled thousands of dollars. She forged checks in his favour, initiated large transfers of funds to unknown bank accounts (and)…. removed thousands of ATMs from casinos…. Coupling Hibbler’s misconduct with the near total abdication of board oversight has led to impending disaster for a once valuable nonprofit that served the public interest,” Studor wrote.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he gave the go-ahead to proceed with the first-ever seizure, in part after watching KING 5 Reports this revealed that Hibbler had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the charity for his personal gain.

“The conduct, as you reported to Susannah, has been so outrageous for so long…(and is) so out of control,” Ferguson said. “We believe the conduct must stop and shift responsibility to someone else to protect the assets that are there.”

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The attorney general says VIEW and its three leaders violated at least four state laws, including the Not-for-Profit Corporations Actthe Charitable Trusts Actthe Consumer Protection Actand the Charitable Solicitations Act.

“Part of our job is to make sure…that money is not diverted for someone’s personal use that goes against the intent of this organization.” As sons of veterans, we take this seriously. We just observed Veterans Day in this country. Those dollars should go to people in need, and that didn’t happen,” Ferguson said.

The judge’s order gives Bugbee full control of all aspects of the nonprofit.

“The interim receiver will take over the business operations of VIEW; have exclusive possession and control of VIEW’s business operations, maintain, secure and administer VIEW, examine VIEW’s books and records; and collect deposits, rents and related revenues for the payment of costs and expenses associated with the operation of VIEW,” the assistant attorneys general wrote in an order signed by Commissioner Gelman.

During an eight-month investigation, ROI 5 exposed money was diverted from veterans support in various ways. Bank statements Analyzes by KING showed that the charity’s money was used in the following ways:

In August, Hibbler denied any wrongdoing in an interview with KING 5. She blamed VIEW’s financial troubles on previous executives.

“We are in financial recovery. That’s the truth of the matter,” Hibbler said. “In terms of where the money is going, we have a lot of things from the past that I’m still dealing with (like) unpaid bills from 2006 to today. So every penny we enter is spent (to pay old debts). »

The king the investigation also revealed veterans formerly assisted by VIEW suffered from mismanagement. More than 70 veterans and former VIEW employees filed a class action lawsuit after payroll records showed they were paid late by Hibbler or sometimes not paid at all. Several said they quit when paychecks repeatedly bounced. Others, including 62-year-old Army veteran Wallace Pruitt, said Hibbler fired him after meeting with investigators from the attorney general’s office who were working on a criminal investigation.

“She messed up my whole life, and I think she knew it. She messed up my whole life. (I was) on the right track. I was going. One day I opened my eyes to go to work and I got nothing because of her,” Pruitt said.

The order currently in place is temporary. A the hearing is fixed for Nov. 27 at the Pierce County Courthouse, when Hibbler and the other two board members will have a chance to speak. The state will advocate for VIEW to continue its operations under the direction of the receiver.

Former VIEW officials were relieved to hear from Hibbler, and board members were removed from their positions.

“I’m very happy. I’m so ecstatic that someone stopped her,” said Rosa Remedios, the former VIEW housing director. “Today is a victory. It’s a big victory , and I’m so glad that (Hibbler) can’t ruin someone else’s life.

Former VIEW human resources director Tammy Taylor was the first person to tell KING 5 about VIEW’s problems in 2018. Taylor said she had spent the past four years complaining to state agencies and to the Hibbler Police Department and embezzlement.

“So many times I’ve thought, ‘If nothing happens, something’s wrong with the justice system,'” Taylor said. “This is the best day of my life. It’s the day we’ve been waiting for since 2015. And that day has finally arrived.

Bugbee said when he took office on Monday there was no money in VIEW’s bank accounts and his first task was to find the funds to pay the few remaining employees who did not have paycheck receipt for weeks. On Tuesday, VIEW received a $10,000 donation from the Redmond-based Osborne Family Foundation. Bugbee said he contacted Matt Osborne, a Navy veteran and chief compliance officer for Osborne Buildingwhom he met in law school.

“We will stay open!” Bugbee wrote in a text. “It was truly moving for me to see this outpouring of support from the Osborne family. They represent veterans helping other veterans. To do so at such short notice was invaluable.

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