Trail group settles with former employee accused of embezzling $117K

Posted May 23, 2011, at 6:14 p.m.
Last modified May 24, 2011, at 7:49 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Island Trail Association has reached a civil settlement with a former employee accused of stealing money from the group, according to association officials.

In March, the group filed a civil lawsuit against its former business manager, Patricia Dano of Naples, after accusing her of embezzling $117,000 of the association’s funds.

The alleged theft was discovered after Dano’s position was eliminated on Feb. 1 for reasons unconnected with the alleged embezzlement, MITA officials have said. After Dano left MITA, and while another MITA employee was assuming Dano’s former duties, some suspicious financial transactions were discovered in MITA’s records. Dano had worked for MITA since August 2006.

The civil complaint against Dano alleged that she used a MITA credit card for personal expenses and forged the signature of a MITA official on the group’s checks. Dano also was accused of using MITA money to make payments on her personal credit card and of concealing the transactions by creating “parallel and inaccurate banking records,” according to the complaint.

In an email message sent earlier this month to the group’s membership, Rod Vogel, chairman of MITA’s board of trustees, indicated that MITA had reached a private settlement with Dano, who was not mentioned by name in the e-mail. The settlement includes a restitution plan, the message indicated.

MITA also has implemented “a comprehensive set of financial controls” to help prevent similar incidents in the future, Vogel added.

Doug Welch, the group’s executive director, said Monday that the group already has recovered some of the missing funds. He said MITA has been notified by law enforcement officials that the case has been forwarded to the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution.

Welch said the episode has been “very upsetting” for the organization. He said that, with the settlement, MITA gets to turn its attention back to its mission of stewardship.

“We feel we are ready to move on,” Welch said. “It’s that time of year when we need to think of the Maine Island Trail.”

Attempts to track down contact information for Dano, such as an e-mail address or phone number, have been unsuccessful.

Dano’s attorney, George Dilworth of Portland, confirmed on Monday that a settlement had been reached and said no criminal charges have been filed against his client. He declined to comment further.

MITA, founded in 1987, maintains a water trail that extends from the New Hampshire border to Machias Bay. Along the 375-mile winding waterway, MITA owns or maintains more than 190 islands and sites, including Hells Half Acre and Steve islands off Stonington, Warren Island off Islesboro, and multiple islands in Casco and Muscongus bays.

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