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May 9, 2021

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Evergreen Public Schools employees union treasurer accused of stealing $70,000

Affidavit of probable cause says she spent the money on gambling, shopping

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter

The former treasurer of an Evergreen Public Schools employees union has been accused of stealing $70,000 from the union’s bank account and spending the money on gambling and shopping.

Jeana Wright-Smith, 41, of Vancouver faces an allegation of first-degree theft. Judge David Gregerson granted supervised release in Wright-Smith’s case. Court records say she was in the custody of Clark County Jail; she was to be released following her first appearance hearing Friday.

An arraignment hearing was scheduled for Jan. 19.

Wright-Smith was elected treasurer of the Public School Employees Union of Washington, Evergreen Public Schools chapter, in June 2019, according to a probable cause affidavit. From February 2020 through the beginning of December, Wright-Smith charged and took the money from the union’s bank account, according to the affidavit.

Officers interviewed the union chapter’s president Sandy Forst and secretary Jammie Evans at the Vancouver Police Department West Precinct on an unspecified date about the alleged theft. Forst had previously reported that tens of thousands of dollars were stolen from the chapter’s account.

Forst told police that the union is a nonprofit and typically doesn’t keep more than $50,000 in the account, which is used for giving out scholarships to students in need, and for training and conventions for union members. Because of a freeze on spending due to COVID-19, the account was up to more than $70,000, according to the affidavit.

The union’s leadership holds monthly meetings, during which finances are discussed, and Wright-Smith would prepare presentations but never showed the board of directors actual bank statements, court records say.

Wright-Smith, the president and the secretary are the only people with debit cards tied to the account, according to the affidavit.

The board decided to use some of the funds for gift cards to help its members with the holidays, and Forst purchased $6,000 in cards. When she called Wright-Smith to be reimbursed, Wright-Smith said it wouldn’t be possible, according to the affidavit.

“It was at this time that Jeana told Sandy that she was sorry for what she had done and that she would be resigning from her position as union treasurer,” the affidavit says.

The president began examining the account and found there to be numerous withdrawals at various casinos and stores, and it appeared Wright-Smith paid her own credit card bills and made deposits into her bank account using the union’s money, according to the affidavit.

Wright-Smith allegedly admitted to at least two other co-workers at 49th Street Academy that she took money from the union’s account. The admission was given a couple days before the president discovered the alleged theft.

Wright-Smith told a co-worker “she had been using drugs and other stuff and was in a very bad place,” the affidavit says.

A police officer contacted Wright-Smith on Thursday at her home; she was arrested. In a subsequent interview, she admitted to the theft, according to the affidavit.

“When asked if she knew it was wrong Jeana stated ‘Yes,’ ” the affidavit says.