Missing money doesn’t have to have a guilty culprit. At least that’s what Cheryl Ann Cooper, an accounting teacher and former treasurer of the Reynolds Education Association, is hoping. Cooper, 54, on September 5 turned herself into local authorities in Gresham, a suburb of Portland, and promptly was booked on one count of aggravated first-degree theft. At her arraignment, she was charged with embezzling $150,000 in union dues. Apparently, prosecutors thought the charge might not stick because the very next day they dropped it. They cautioned, however, that she could be recharged within two years. Cooper, who had served as the local treasurer since July 1999, resigned her union post this past April. This August, she took leave of her teaching position, which since has been filled.
Cooper’s alleged thefts took place over more than a half-decade. This spring, the Reynolds Education Association noticed discrepancies in its records. Officials requested that its state parent organization, the Oregon Education Association, itself an affiliate of the National Education Association, conduct an internal audit of certain banking transactions occurring during November 2000 through March 2006. The local association’s past president, Tammy Sykes, a first-grade teacher, said discussions between Cooper and the association led to her submitting a $50,000 check to the union to cover the missing funds. It turns out the actual amount stolen was three times higher. As preventive action, the local has retained an accountant to help balance its books. Additionally, it now shows bank statements at meetings and requires two signatures for all money transactions. Cheryl Cooper is a free woman for now. Though she might well remain that way, this much is for certain: Her accounting skills won’t be needed by her school or union anytime soon. (The Oregonian, Portland, 9/14/06).