During my time as a reporter at The Chronicle in Centralia, Wash., I covered several beats, but the most complex certainly dealt with business and nonprofits. My reporting would reach its climax in November 2011 as it was discovered $465,000 was gone from the Lewis County Historical Museum’s endowment fund.
Half a million dollars missing from a fund that people contributed to — and several donated to upon their death — is a big deal. I received a tip on this November 1, 2011 and went hard to work to get to the bottom of the issue.
It was alleged that the museum’s executive director, Debbie Knapp, made personal transactions using at least $137,000 of that money (“$137,000 Traced to Transactions Allegedly Made by Debbie Knapp From Museum Accounts,” by Christopher Brewer, The Chronicle, Dec. 30, 2011). It was money that should not have been touched by anyone, but also should have been overseen by a board of directors that by all indications did not do their jobs. Knapp has since confessed in court to theft charges and will reportedly spend a year in the Lewis County Jail.
In my reporting, I obtained documents that showed the financial state of the museum. These were difficult to access at first. A financial committee that had been organized to look into the finances had been assembled, and only after museum members voted in all new board members after my first report on the drawdown became public (“Museum Endowment Fund Loses More Than $450,000; Independent Audit Forthcoming,” by Brewer, The Chronicle, Nov. 1, 2011) did there begin any significant movement on figuring out how the money disappeared.…