President of Philadelphia-Area School Auxiliary Employees Union Charged with Theft

For more than a half-dozen years, Rose Marie Lyons stole dues to cover her gambling losses. Union members are wondering how nobody could have noticed. On February 13, Lyons, former president and secretary of the William Penn Education Support Personnel Association (WPESPA), surrendered to authorities in Delaware County, Pa., where she was charged in county district court with embezzling more than $200,000 in cash and checks from the Lansdowne union. Ms. Lyons, now retired, has been free in the ensuing six months on $100,000 bail. The union is affiliated with the Pennsylvania State Education Association, in turn an affiliate of the National Education Association. The action follows a probe by Lansdowne and Delaware County police. No updated information is available.

The WPESPA represents about 90 auxiliary employees of the William Penn School District, one of whom was an administrative assistant, Rose Marie Lyons. Now 52, Lyons, a resident of Wilmington, Del., during her years as union head, saw its coffers as cover for her gambling losses. According to charging documents, during July 2009-December 2015 she made 448 unauthorized withdrawals through a variety of means totaling $210,592.91 from the union bank account. To replenish the account, she made 211 unauthorized deposits totaling $179,700.91, a sum derived from cash, personal checks, stolen checks payable to the school district, and IRS electronic tax returns; the latter item represented returns she prepared for others. The pattern of theft unraveled when two new union office employees, Dawn Fry and Vivian Callahan, discovered what appeared to be a misappropriation of funds and filed a complaint on January 14, 2016 with the Lansdowne Police Department.

Simple math suggests Lyons’ thefts greatly have inconvenienced the WPESPA. With 90 members each paying $385.50 in annual dues, that translates to about $225,000 over six and a half years. There seems to be no other culprit in this affair. “The reporting parties stated that while examining financial records, it appeared that the former WPESPA president/financial secretary, Rose Marie Lyons, who had complete control of the financial accounts, was responsible for numerous suspicious deposits and withdrawals between 2009 and 2015,” read the affidavit. “The reporting parties stated the association should only be receiving deposits from their members via electronic transactions between the William Penn School District and the association.”