Jeffrey Olson owed serious money to his credit cards and the IRS. Unfortunately, to cover those debts, the 58-year-old high school math teacher in Belfast, Maine embezzled from his teachers’ union local. Olson until recently had served as treasurer of SAD 34 Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association. On October 18 he turned himself into local authorities after a months-long investigation. According to Belfast Police Chief Jeffrey Trafton, Olson admitted to tapping union funds for years. “He has cooperated completely and fully with the investigation,” Trafton added. Investigators and auditors determined that Olson had removed about $150,000 in union funds over the previous six years, acknowledging that he managed to repay $91,000. But that still leaves roughly $60,000 to go.
As treasurer, Olson had sole control over teacher union dues deductions. The case emerged after Betty Lu Brown, a secretary at Belfast Area High School, was elected local president in June. When bank statements addressed to the association arrived at the high school office, she opened them and discovered things “she felt weren’t right.” Brown confronted Olson about 32 checks, each for $514, written over a three-month period to himself or his wife. Brown then notified police, who discovered there had been a lot more where that came from. Police Chief Trafton is willing to cut Olson some slack. “I believe he is remorseful,” Trafton said. “He is a well-known member of the community and has been a good teacher to a lot of kids for many years.” (Associated Press, 10/19).