A Philomath-area Girl Scouts troop leader was arrested Saturday for allegedly stealing $7,500 to $8,500 from the troop’s bank account.
Sheila Cowart, 28, of Philomath, was booked on a felony charge of first-degree theft and released on her own recognizance the same day.
Cowart had been a troop leader for the Girl Scouts of the USA for six years up until two weeks ago, when she announced her resignation from Troop 21371 by sending emails to the parents of some of her troop members.
Cowart said in a telephone interview Monday that she hopes to work with the Girl Scouts of the USA to enter a civil compromise in which she would repay the money and the criminal charge would be dismissed. Cowart has not yet been arraigned in court on the charge.
Sarah Miller, a spokeswoman for the Oregon and Southwest Washington Council of the Girls Scouts of the USA said it was too early in the process to discuss the possibility of a civil compromise.
“Our procedure in a scenario like this is to do a thorough review of the troop’s finances, and we’re not even halfway finished with the review, so we can’t comment on that,” Miller said.
Until the review is complete, Miller said, she also couldn’t comment about whether the missing money had come from cookie sales or some other fundraising effort.
Harmony George, the regional council’s chief financial officer, said that they are reviewing bank records from the beginning of Cowart’s tenure.
The theft allegation came to light on April 12 when George reported to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office that $7,477 was unaccounted for. According to Deputy Adam Miller’s report, George told investigators that Cowart was not returning phone calls, and that she offered insufficient explanations about the missing money through email. Cowart allegedly had offered the excuse that cookie sales were still going on when George knew that sales in the area had concluded three weeks before.
Upon questioning, Cowart allegedly told deputies that she took the troop’s money to pay off credit card debt that had grown out of control, according to the sheriff’s report. She allegedly said that her husband was unaware of what she had done, and that she tried to repay the money. She said she was unsuccessful in taking out a bank loan and was hoping she could buy enough time until she received her tax return.
George eventually sent investigators documents that revealed that $20,545.80 in troop proceeds should have been deposited into the council’s account, but that the deposits fell $8,475 short — more than George originally had believed was missing. Another document revealed that the missing money was not in the troop’s account because it had only $2.08 as of March 29.