Principal pleads not guilty to theft

The former principal of the South Whidbey Primary School is facing a possible prison term for allegedly stealing at least $5,100 from two separate funds, court documents show.

Bernardine Mahar, a 48-year-old Freeland resident, pleaded not guilty last week to one count of theft in the first degree and four counts of second-degree theft. If convicted of the charges, she could face between a year and 14 months in prison under the standard sentencing range.

The case was investigated by Detective Mark Plumberg of the Island County Sheriff’s Office. He became involved last January after South Whidbey School District Superintendent Fred McCarthy reported that $450 in cash was missing from the kindergarden tuition fund, which a business secretary discovered while reconciling transmittals.

In an interview with Plumberg, Mahar admitted that she stole the money and “fixed it the wrong way” by manipulating several deposits, the report states.

“She said it was a desperate act and a bad mistake,” the detective wrote.

In addition, Plumberg discovered that Mahar had written several checks, totaling $4,650, to herself or to her husband from the South Whidbey Primary Social Fund, which is a social fund and not a school district account.

Mahar resigned as principal early this year.

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