The former executive director of the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce has been indicted on charges she stole thousands of dollars from the organization.
Karen Hutchinson-Talaski, 60, of Hermiston, did not immediately return calls Wednesday. She left the chamber post sometime in 2016. According to public records, this is the second embezzlement case involving Hutchinson-Talaski.
Umatilla County Circuit Court documents show a grand jury handed up the indictment Dec. 6, 2016, charging Hutchinson-Talaski with one count of third-degree theft, one count of second-degree theft, both misdemeanors, and four felony charges of first-degree theft. The thefts span from early July 2014 through late November 2015 and include taking $1,000 or more on two occasions from bank cash machine withdrawals as well as making unauthorized purchases on a chamber account.
According to Oregon law, third-degree theft applies to values of less than $100, second-degree theft is for $100-$999, and first-degree theft covers values of at least $1,000.
Hutchinson-Talaski pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Monday in Hermiston circuit court.
The chamber is a charitable nonprofit, and its tax returns are available from Guidestar.org, which specializes in gathering and providing data on nonprofits. The chamber’s tax forms shows it lost $25,221 in 2012, lost $27,677 in 2013 and lost $40,139 in 2014.
Hutchinson-Talaski was a reporter in 2008 for the Hermiston Herald, the EO’s sister publication. And from August 1992 until October 1998 she taught for the Morrow County School District. Records from the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission show she lost the job after embezzling approximately $9,000 from the district.
Hutchinson-Talaski signed an order from the commission in May 1999 in which she agreed to surrender her Oregon teaching license and admit to the theft. The order also states a Morrow County grand jury indited her on Dec. 14, 1998, on multiple counts of theft, and she pleaded guilty to first-degree theft. She avoided jail, had to pay back the $9,000 and served two tears of probation.