Advocates Crisis Support Services recovers from embezzlement case | CraigDailyPress.com

Advocates Crisis Support Services recovers from embezzlement case

Janelle O'Dea

Renee Virden

— Advocates Crisis Support Services employees didn't have an easy summer.

Sharon Farquhar, the organization's executive director, discovered evidence of two employees allegedly embezzling funds and writing checks without board permission.

Renae Virden, former Advocates board secretary/treasurer, and Kimberly Gardner, an accountant formerly contracted by Virden, according to the affidavit, "conspired with one another to create a scheme to embezzle federal, state and other funds from the Advocates Crisis Support Services …"

But Farquhar said that despite the trouble, Advocates has recovered and received good news about funding last week.

On Sept. 17, Farquhar said their main source of funding, the Violence Against Women Act, was renewed for three years. The VAWA funding means a little more than $750,000 for the organization throughout three years.

"It’s just short of $251,000 a year," Farquhar said. "We plan our activity and personnel and goals and things like that around about how much do we have to spend each month. It’s specifically earmarked for rural communities and the efforts it takes to support victims — typically women but can be men, too — that are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and teen dating violence."

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Another part of the grant supports an officer at the Craig Police Department dedicated to handling domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

"Our four major funders for our activities in Craig and Moffat County are still supporting us and supporting us with continued levels of funding. It's not been cut or withheld," Farquhar said.

Advocates currently has five employees and three volunteer on-call advocates. Farquhar said they're in the process of hiring two new employees, a child and family advocate and a crime victims services coordinator.

Kathy Bockelman, president of the Advocates board of directors, said the tight-knit staff has kept a positive attitude throughout the investigation.

"We have some amazing people as employees," Bockelman said. "They have just kept this agency going through this whole thing."

A preliminary hearing for Virden and Gardner will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday at the Moffat County Courthouse.

Prosecutors from Garfield County will travel to Moffat County for the hearing. Moffat County’s defense attorney works closely with Advocates and thought the case presented a conflict of interest, prompting him to recuse himself.

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or jodea@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.