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Mark Westerfield says incident a big misunderstanding

Clackamas County sheriff’s detectives say they are investigating a member of the Oregon City Schools Foundation Board for possibly misrepresenting his relationship with a public school district’s charity arm during a June incident in Happy Valley.

The investigation focuses on Mark Westerfield, who detectives say sent his nephews door-to-door near the intersection of Francesca Lane and Chelsea Morning Drive posing as Red Cross fundraisers on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 20.

Westerfield said the incident was a misunderstanding about the purpose of the fundraising. No charges related to the alleged fraud case have been filed against Westerfield, 39, or his two nephews, whom the police estimate to be between 14 and 17.

According to sheriff’s detectives, soon after schools closed for summer vacation, a Happy Valley code enforcement officer confronted two teenage boys wearing Red Cross backpacks who appeared to be soliciting first-aid supplies.

Code Enforcement Officer Michelle Amend was on her normal afternoon patrol when she spotted the boys going door to door. The boys told her they were raising money to help schools purchase automated electronic defibrillators, and that they worked for their uncle’s business, Triple Advantage Club. The company’s website describes the business as a buyers club that gives discounts, “value-added services” and charitable contributions to its members.

Amend became suspicious when the boys couldn’t provide documentation that associated them with any charitable institutions, including the Red Cross.

Westerfield arrived in the neighborhood and allegedly told officers that he was raising money for schools through his Triple Advantage Club and referred to another company named Right Response. Sheriff’s detectives checked with Oregon City Schools Foundation officials and were told that neither of the companies was associated with any schools nor had permission to raise money on behalf of any schools.

“To say that he was working for schools was a bogus excuse,” said Det. Gil Millett.

Westerfield said that Triple Advantage had a license to go door to door, but confusion arose when he mentioned to a code-enforcement officer that the Oregon City Schools Foundation might want to use the permit at some point to raise money.

Westerfield said he was surprised when an investigation was launched.

“They went door to door and just said they were selling for Triple Advantage, and Triple Advantage has as one of its missions to work with defibrillators,” Westerfield said.

He said he would have found a charitable beneficiary in Oregon City for the proceeds. Westerfield turned in to police one $20 check and $20 in cash. He said the boys only collected that $40 and visited about 10 houses when code enforcement intervened.

“It’s too bad that something that was trying to be positive turned into something so negative,” he said.

Investigators dispute Westerfield’s version of the events. They point out that he plead guilty and was levied a $250 fine in July 18 Happy Valley Municipal Court hearing for his failure to obtain a city business license.

That fine was separate from the sheriff’s office investigation into the alleged fundraising fraud.

One person bought kit

Westerfield, who plans to resign his position on the board, said the incident only turned sour when Amend contacted foundation board President Tiff Mumma, who “overreacted” to the police report.

Mumma, who was on vacation during the week this story broke, read an earlier version of this web story and called The Oregon City News to make clear that the Oregon City Schools Foundation had cause for concern since it was not associated with Westerfield’s efforts in Happy Valley. She added that the board will be accepting Westerfield’s resignation at its Aug. 20 meeting.

According to public records, the foundation raised $67,157 last year for the Oregon City School District. The foundation does not use door-to-door solicitation, instead raising most of its funds through auctions and its presence at special events, like the annual community safety fair.

Happy Valley Community Safety Director Steve Campbell said that detectives have compiled evidence for the past month before asking the public for tips in the case. A woman alledgedly bought a Red Cross kit from Westerfield’s nephews for $20, thinking she was donating to schools.

“We’ve found one solid victim, and we believe there are more of them,” Campbell said.

If you can provide any information that will assist in this investigation, contact either Millett at 503-760-0123 Ext. 102 or Amend at 503-783-3817.

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