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CODY, Wyo. — The manager of the Park County Humane Society was arrested last week on charges of embezzling more than $10,000 from the animal shelter while failing to provide the board of directors with monthly financial statements.

Humane Society employees also said the shelter's bills were left unpaid, leaving the facility in a deep financial hole that's forcing members of the staff to cut their hours.

Cody Police Chief Perry Rockvam said Monday that Heidi Ann Hatcher, 36, was arrested Friday and booked into the Park County Detention Center on charges of larceny.

Hatcher is free on $15,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court Monday.

Rockvam said that on Feb. 4, police received a report from Dick Smith, board president for the Park County Humane Society, alleging that Hatcher was using a shelter debit card to purchase personal items.

Hatcher was hired by the Humane Society in September. Her responsibilities included paying the shelter's bills, managing the employees and buying supplies for day-to-day operations.

"This puts us in a tremendously tough spot," said Mary Whitmore, the board's vice president. "It's a lot of money, and we also found out she hadn't paid the bills."

Whitmore said the shelter has accrued nearly $11,000 in unpaid food and utility bills, among other expenses. She said it amounts to about three months of payments, forcing the board to call unpaid vendors to arrange a long-term payment plan.

As manager, Hatcher was required to provide the board with a monthly financial statement. When she failed to do so, the board began looking at the shelter's bank statements, where it found several questionable purchases.

The board contacted police, who began an investigation. Police found questionable purchases in excess of $10,000, though Whitmore said it was probably more.

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"She took our records, and I suppose it was to hide something," Whitmore said.

"We keep a cash donation log, and, when donations come in, we rely on that log. We're pretty sure the checks went into that log, but the cash donations may never have been recorded properly."

A shelter employee said the shelter's five employees have had to cut back on their hours.

She said current employees Raechael Strom and Betsy Gibbs will serve as co-managers of the shelter.

Whitmore said the shelter's budget is roughly $150,000 a year. About $45,000 comes from the city and $12,000 from the county. The rest, she said, comes through fundraising.

"We just had our two big fundraisers, and we thought we were going to be in very good shape to start the year," Whitmore said. "Now we have to think about what we're going to do."

Whitmore said the vendors who are owed money have been receptive in arranging a payment plan. She also said area veterinarians have pitched in with animal care.

"We just don't have the money to meet our bills and the employee things right now," Whitmore said. "We owe $800 in animal feed. We put a set number on hours for each employee, and overtime has to be approved. This is devastating for us."

 

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Contact Martin Kidston at mkidston@billingsgazette.com or 307-527-7250.

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