Washington attorney general files lawsuit against veterans’ charity VIEW for misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars

Attorney General Bob Ferguson this week announced a lawsuit against the nonprofit Veterans Independent Enterprises of Washington (VIEW) and its chief operating officer, Rosemary Hibbler. Ferguson claims that Hibbler spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of the organization’s money for personal purposes, including ATM withdrawals at casinos and his own personal bills. During this time, VIEW failed to pay for repairs to veterans’ housing, the salaries of its veteran employees, and at one point fired all of its staff and asked them to “volunteer” their work.

After the lawsuit was filed, the judge granted Ferguson’s request to appoint an interim receiver – someone who will take over the management of the organization, including its bank accounts, operations and properties, until until a permanent and effective management can intervene. The receiver, Daniel Bugbee, is himself a veteran and has years of experience with receiverships in Washington.

The lawsuit, filed in Pierce County Superior Court, claims that the organization, Hibbler and its board members Donald Hutt and Gary Peterson, violated the Charitable Trust Act, the Nonprofit Corporation Act and the Consumer Protection Act. The complaint alleges that Hibbler repeatedly and intentionally misappropriated funds from VIEW. Despite numerous warnings about this conduct, including multiple investigative reports on KING 5, the two VIEW board members continued to employ Hibbler and approved of his numerous illegal purchases on VIEW’s account.

“VIEW management and its board of directors have abandoned their mission to help veterans,” Ferguson said. “It is shameful that VIEW management has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on personal bills and casinos, while leaving veteran housing to deteriorate and its employees unpaid.”

The decline of VIEW
VIEW, a Tacoma-based nonprofit organization established in 1988 to provide housing and employment opportunities to veterans in need, primarily those who are unemployed, recovering from addiction, or have a criminal record. VIEW has employed hundreds of veterans to provide various services to companies – for example, restoring ventilators for Boeing. Many of these veteran employees also lived in VIEW’s transitional housing.

VIEW’s once-successful program fell into disarray and failed to even provide basic support to its residents and staff. Between 2010 and 2014, VIEW began to suffer from significant neglect and mismanagement. The board, which is required by VIEW’s bylaws to have a minimum of six members, has shrunk to just two: Hutt and Peterson.

According to the lawsuit, the council stopped holding regular meetings. It operated without a formal budget for years. In addition, she was paying her employees late or not at all. In some cases, their paychecks have bounced. The organization paid some employees below minimum wage.

Hutt and Peterson hired Hibbler as VIEW’s chief operating officer in 2015. His duties included accounting, human resources and compliance oversight.

Hibbler has a history of financial crimes. From 2007 to 2011, Hibbler was convicted of ten counts of theft or forgery. In addition, several civil judgments were rendered against her.

Prior to being hired by VIEW, Hibbler was fired multiple times over allegations that she misappropriated funds from her former employers. One of her former employers, another nonprofit called Sober Solutions, sued her for financial mismanagement. In 2017, a judge entered a default judgment against Hibbler and ordered her to pay more than $200,000 to Sober Solutions. According to KING 5, Hibbler has yet to pay that amount.

Even though Hutt and Peterson knew that Hibbler had a criminal history and were aware of his former employer’s lawsuit, they hired Hibbler anyway without conducting a thorough background check or fully inquiring about the nature of the convictions.

Hibbler driving
Under Hibbler’s leadership, VIEW neglected the upkeep of veterans’ transitional housing, which is now dilapidated. In 2017, VIEW was evicted from its offices in Fife after Hibbler refused to pay rent because she was “unhappy” with the council’s signed lease.

The Attorney General’s Office investigation of VIEW revealed hundreds of questionable or illegal transactions on the VIEW bank card. These withdrawals amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars, including ATM withdrawals at casinos and rent payments to Hibbler’s landlord.

The lawsuit claims that Hibbler misappropriated the organization’s funds in several ways, for example:

  • Pay personal IRS debts
  • Pay his criminal defense lawyers
  • Withdraw at least $26,000 from the VIEW debit card at ATMs located in casinos
  • Paying $11,000 in rent and late fees for his own house
  • Thousands of dollars in direct deposits from the VIEW bank account to his personal bank account
  • Pay your cable TV bills

The Attorney General’s investigation also found that Hibbler used VIEW money to get out of jail after an arrest.

The board regularly gave Hibbler blank checks to use to pay VIEW’s expenses, which she endorsed and denominated in cash. Over a period of several months, she used those checks to withdraw over $166,000 in cash. There is no evidence that this money was used to pay VIEW’s expenses.

In February 2018, VIEW fired all of its staff because it allegedly couldn’t pay its employees. Despite the layoff notice, VIEW asked its employees to “volunteer” their work.

Hibbler has filed for bankruptcy three times and is currently in another personal bankruptcy proceeding. The Attorney General’s office has intervened in this bankruptcy proceeding to ensure that Hibbler is not released from any debts she may incur in this case.

Hutt and Peterson’s negligence
Hibbler is still employed at VIEW, although Hutt and Peterson have received several warnings about her conduct. One of VIEW’s store managers called the police after noticing Hibbler had forged checks with Peterson’s signature. In response, Hutt and Peterson decided to fire the store manager.

The board also kept Hibbler in her position even after her arrest while employed at VIEW and after several KING 5 reports aired exposing her conduct this summer.

Legal offenses
Ferguson’s lawsuit claims Hibbler violated state law by embezzling funds. Charities and non-profit organizations are required by the Charitable Trust Act to ensure that their assets are used for charitable purposes. Much of VIEW’s assets were diverted for Hibbler’s personal benefit.

The lawsuit also claims that Hutt and Peterson failed to fulfill their obligations under the Charitable Trust Act by allowing Hibbler to continue running VIEW even after numerous warnings of his misconduct.

VIEW and its management violated both the Charitable Solicitations Act and the Consumer Protection Act when they made false, misleading and deceptive statements in charitable solicitations for VIEW. These misrepresentations include claims on its website that VIEW is a “100% veteran-focused work opportunity center” and that it provides “support services” to veteran clients. In reality, VIEW has failed to deliver on its promises to veterans over the past few years.

The lawsuit asks the court to bar Hutt, Peterson and Hibbler from managing funds for VIEW or operating a charity. He asks the court to impose civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

Assistant Attorney General Joshua Studor and Senior Counsel David Horn are leading the case for the Attorney General’s Office.

Collective action
On November 15, VIEW reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit demanding that the organization pay $150,000 in damages to veterans employed by VIEW. Current and former employees who were unpaid, underpaid or late paid will receive damages under the class action settlement.

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