GRAYLAND - A park assistant at Grayland State Park has been convicted of third-degree theft in Pacific County Superior Court after Judge Michael Sullivan found that she had stolen public funds on eight separate occasions from her employer between Jan. 4 and Feb. 20, 2008.

Joanne Marie Gardner, 62, of Tokeland, worked in the state park office and, according to Pacific County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor David Bustamante, "One of her duties was to empty the 'iron ranger,' used by campers for self-registration at the park." Gardner, according to Bustamante, was shredding the envelopes and, instead of depositing the money in the cash register, was keeping the money. These actions occurred on at least eight occasions over a two-month period - from Jan. 4 to Feb. 20 - a total of $185.

Gardner was convicted in a bench trial in superior court in December and a written guilty verdict was entered last week.

Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 6 at 11 a.m. in Pacific County Superior Court.

Bustamante said suspicions were aroused when someone gave a fee envelope to a park employee after hours after the park computers had been shut down. When the ranger checked the next day to see if the amount had been entered, no trace of the money was found. Park employees began monitoring funds coming into the park. "This was a violation of the public trust and of public funds," Bustamante said.

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