2/21/08

Union embezzlement termed 'borrowing'

The two women who used San Gabriel (CA) school teachers' union funds for personal trips, meals and shopping were thick as thieves, officials say. Former Jefferson Middle School special education teachers Ava Shaw, 52, of Pasadena, and Jennifer Kathryn Boyd-Oliver, 36, of Duarte, pleaded no contest Friday to charges in the case. Both have been ordered to pay restitution.

Shaw was president and treasurer of the San Gabriel Teachers Association and Boyd was secretary. "Shaw vacationed a lot with Jennifer Boyd," said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Donna Hollingsworth, who added that Shaw "footed the bill" for trips the two took to St. Thomas, Lake Tahoe and New York.

"They were at the same place together pretty much at all times," Hollingsworth said.

Shaw was charged with embezzling as much as $83,000 between June 2001 and September 2004 and faces prison time. She made an agreement with the judge that she would not be sentenced until after a March 25 restitution hearing.

Her teaching credential has been revoked, and she was terminated by the district after more than seven years as a teacher at Jefferson. Boyd accepted a plea bargain from the District Attorney's Office in which she was required to plead no contest to grand theft, which is a felony, Hollingsworth noted. The court agreed to reduce the sentence to a misdemeanor since Boyd paid back the $1,925 she pocketed.

She was placed on three years probation and is required to do 45 days of Caltrans work, Hollingsworth added.

Because of the reduced charge, Boyd's credential was merely suspended, leaving her with the option of teaching again. She had spent six years as a teacher at Jefferson and one year at Wilson Elementary School. She resigned in June of 2006, just two months after her arrest. Susan Naeves, assistant superintendent for human resources at San Gabriel Unified, said both Shaw and Boyd had received satisfactory evaluations while they were employed at the district.

Hollingsworth said the bylaws of the union gave Shaw "ultimate power over the check writing," one which she abused by using the association's funds to pay off personal debt.

"It looked like she was just borrowing Peter to pay Paul," she said. "She became accustomed to a certain lifestyle. ... It looked like she had a serious spending problem."

In addition, Shaw was charging trips to the hair salon, artwork purchased in the Caribbean, and meals at expensive restaurants to the union's American Express credit card - a credit card that no one knew existed, district officials said.

Calls to both Shaw's and Boyd's attorneys were not returned Wednesday afternoon.

(pasadenastarnews.com)

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