Friday, December 27, 2013
NORTHAMPTON — The former treasurer of the Easthampton High School Parent Council is accused of embezzling about $19,000 from that organization, including $3,600 to help buy a house.
John R. Meisner, 56, of Bernardston, has pleaded not guilty in Northampton District Court to charges of larceny over $250 by a single scheme and embezzlement by an association officer over $250.
Meisner is accused of making 35 cash withdrawals totaling $19,181.26 from the council’s bank account during the six years he was treasurer.
According to court files, Meisner was the treasurer and lone signatory on the council’s account from October 2006 until October 2012 when suspicious transactions prompted the council to add a second signatory to help review the account.
The council is a volunteer organization that produces the annual high school musical, the proceeds of which fund Easthampton High School graduation night and a pair of scholarships, according to court records.
According to court files, suspicion surrounding the account surfaced in January 2012 when Meisner allegedly delayed reimbursing council members for legitimate expenses and failed to send scholarship checks to recipients in a timely manner.
One scholarship check was unable to be cashed due to insufficient funds in the council’s account, according to investigators.
Once the suspicious transactions were found, the original account — which investigators said was “essentially empty” — was closed, and a new one was opened with a new treasurer in place in October 2012, according to court records.
Meisner told police that in December 2011 he withdrew $3,600 from the council account and converted it into a bank check for a real estate agent who was assisting with the purchase of a new home, according to court records.
On Oct. 4, 2012, Meisner deposited a check for $9,000 into the council account. According to investigators, the check was deposited the day before Meisner was to meet with a council member and the Easthampton High School principal, Vito Perrone, about adding a second signatory to the account.
The $9,000 check was made payable to Meisner and drawn from the account of a family member in Colorado, according to investigators.
Meisner allegedly told investigators he had borrowed money from the council account to offset financial difficulties at home, but intended to fully pay it back.
According to court files, Meisner told police he did not believe he had withdrawn a total of $19,000 over the course of the six years, but agreed his record-keeping of the withdrawals may not have been accurate.
According to court records there were major discrepancies between the account balances Meisner was reporting to the council and what the bank records showed.
At a March 15, 2012, council meeting, Meisner reported an account balance of about $10,522, while the bank statement from a week prior showed a balance of about $1,739, according to court papers.
Similarly, at an April 12, 2012, council meeting, Meisner reported an account balance of about $9,063, while the April 8 bank statement showed a balance of about $549, according to court files.
Meisner was arraigned in August and there is a pretrial conference scheduled for Jan. 8.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.