Police investigate whether Junction teacher stole group’s funds | AspenTimes.com

Police investigate whether Junction teacher stole group’s funds

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” Police are investigating whether an elementary school teacher stole at least $15,000 from a parent-teacher organization she heads.

Police said Gretchen Blackford went to sheriff’s deputies last weekend and told them she had taken thousands of dollars from the Thunder Mountain Elementary Parent Teacher Council’s bank account.

The case was turned over to police because the bank is inside the city.

Police Officer Brian Gregor said the investigation could take up to two months. He said police would not decide on any arrests until the investigation is complete.

Blackford’s phone was unlisted and it was not immediately known if she had an attorney.

Although Blackford is president of the Thunder Mountain group, she teaches at Rocky Mountain Elementary. School district spokesman Jeff Kirtland said she was on personal leave this week.

The parent-teacher council and its funds are separate from the district.

By AMY HAMILTON The Daily Sentinel

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Police have launched an investigation into a teacher’s confession that she stole at least $15,000 from a parent-teacher council at an elementary school.

Gretchen Blackford, a first-year teacher at Rocky Mountain Elementary School, turned herself in to authorities at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department on Saturday night.

Blackford confessed to taking thousands of dollars for personal use in her role as the president of the Parent Teacher Council at Thunder Mountain Elementary through its bank account at the Bank of Colorado, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Because the bank is located inside city limits, the case was turned over to the Grand Junction Police Department.

After a brief interview in which she acknowledged taking at least $15,000 from the parent-teacher group, Blackford told two deputies she wanted her lawyer to be present, which halted the interview, Police Department officer Brian Gregor said.

Gregor said an investigation into Blackford’s confession may take up to two months to determine how much money Blackford stole and when.

Gregor said if Blackford is to be arrested, it wouldn’t occur until an investigation is complete.

Blackford went on personal leave Monday through today from her position as a teacher, District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland said.

District schools are off Thanksgiving and Friday. Kirtland said he is unsure what the district’s position will be on Blackford’s status next week.

He said it could depend on police offering evidence of theft or making an arrest.

“We can’t put somebody on administrative leave for admitting something,” Kirtland said.

The parent-teacher council and its funds are separate from the district. Kirtland said the district will hire a firm to conduct an audit based on Blackford’s confessions, but the district will not launch a separate investigation into the report.

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