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Missing funds leave shelter board in bind

Charges sought for former Raphael House financial manager

Board members of Portland's Raphael House are seeking to have charges filed against Rosemary Volage in connection with the theft of $190,000 from the nonprofit organization, board spokesman Gregory Dufault said Thursday.

Raphael board members said Volage, 49, was fired in December after the agency learned of problems with the receipt of contributions from donors, as well as other financial discrepancies.

Multnomah County deputy district attorney Dennis Chen declined to comment on the status of the case, which was investigated by both the Portland Police Bureau and a 'forensic accounting firm,' hired by Raphael House, after Volage was fired.

Volage did not respond to numerous attempts by the Tribune to contact her. Her attorney, Steven Sherlag of Portland, did not return calls by press time.

Raphael House operates the state's largest shelter for women and children victimized by domestic violence.

Dufault said last week that the $190,000 figure is based on investigation done to date, including work done by what he described as a forensic accounting firm. Dufault declined to name the firm. Raphael House also referred the allegations to the police bureau for investigation on Dec. 18.

Dufault, who also is chairman of the Raphael House board's financial committee, said the alleged thefts occurred over at least a three-year period before mid-December 2002.

Dufault said Volage, of North Portland, had been employed as Raphael House's fiscal manager since 1997. He said she was placed on administrative leave when the financial discrepancies were discovered in mid-December. She was fired shortly thereafter by then-Executive Director Mark Story, at the board's behest, Dufault said.

Dufault said the missing funds were discovered when Raphael House's bank informed the board that someone had used two checks, imprinted with the agency's bank account number, to buy $500 worth of goods or services from Sprint PCS.

Dufault said later investigations by the forensic accounting firm and a credit-card clearing agency established that numerous donations to Raphael House, made via credit card, had been 'credited back' to a private credit card account.

Dufault said the agency also fired Story earlier this month. He had been hired in 1996.

Story's firing, which Dufault and board Chairwoman Christine Dunn said was unrelated to Volage and the missing funds and the potential criminal charges against her, is the latest in a series of upheavals for the 26-year-old nonprofit program.

In July 2001, Raphael House had to temporarily suspend admissions to its new shelter which opened in April 2001 after some residents and staff complained of symptoms of what's known as 'sick building syndrome.'

The building, remodeled after being donated by the Sisters of Providence Health System, was reopened about one month later after an occupational health consultant signed off on results of environmental testing.

The organization also fired Lynn Allmeyer, its director of development, late last fall. 'We had attempted to let him know that we needed more revenue and that from our point of view, it wasn't happening,' Dufault said.

Dufault and Dunn both declined to give specific dates for Allmeyer's and Story's firings but said that Story's firing was unrelated to specific problems. 'We needed different skills in there,' Dunn said. 'I want to make it clear that Mark (Story) has done nothing illegal.'

Story has been temporarily replaced by Mitchell Jacover, the shelter's former co-director. Neither Story nor Allmeyer responded to repeated calls for comment.

While Rosemary Volage refused comment, her husband, Robert, said he was unaware that his wife had been accused of being involved with missing funds until sometime after she was fired and had talked to an attorney.

He said that the couple keep their finances separate and that he believed she had been paying for drugs to relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain with her pay from Raphael House and an inheritance he understood she had received from her grandmother.

Robert Volage said his wife has no material goods that might account for the missing funds except for a 1988 white Plymouth minivan, which is parked in front of the North Portland house the Volages have rented since 1987. He said he understood the van had been donated to Raphael House and that he believed she was buying it from the organization.

Dufault said Monday that he was unaware of any such vehicle sale. 'And I would be in a position to know,' he said.

The couple's only registered vehicle is a 1980 Mercedes that is only in Robert Volage's name. The couple jointly have two Oregon judgments for bad debts.

Dufault, a stockbroker whose own $10,000 donation to Raphael House in 2002 allegedly was credited to the private credit-card account, said discovery of the alleged misappropriations 'hit me in the solar plexus.'

Dufault said he 'couldn't begin to say' how much of the $190,000 currently believed to be missing came from corporate and individual donors, who provide virtually all of Raphael House's funding. He said the agency is reporting the loss to its insurance company.

Contact Janine Robben at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .