Tillicum community center board removes executive director

Tacoma News TribuneMay 16, 2014 

Tillicum community center executive director Karen Priest has been removed from her position by the center's board of directors.

The board made the decision Tuesday after learning Priest had been charged Monday in Pierce County Superior Court with two theft allegations related to her personal finances.

The decision to let Priest go was difficult for board President Bill Hubbard, who is a longtime friend.

“The board made the decision and I carried through with it,” he said. “This was just an unfortunate circumstance that we couldn't have.”

Hubbard declined further comment about the reason for the decision but suggested it was because of the combination of the personal charges and recent scrutiny of the community center’s finances by the city of Lakewood.

The city’s concerns resulted in the center not receiving much-needed federal grant funding this year to help its operations. It is the first time in 14 years the city hasn’t awarded the center the money.

Priest was hired in 2007 to run the center.

“She was very conscientious, she loved people,” Hubbard said Friday. “She did an awful lot for the center and helped the community.”

The board is running the center until an interim director is hired.

“We’re operating on a day-to-day basis,” Hubbard said. “Everything is normal, that hasn’t changed. We’re getting our stuff back together again.”

That includes restoring the community center’s nonprofit status which was revoked by the Internal Revenue Service in May 2012 after the center failed to file its 990 tax forms for three consecutive years.

Once the nonprofit status is reinstated the center can restore its tax exempt status with the state, which lapsed in 2012 and resulted in the center owing more than $37,000 in missed Pierce County property tax payments from 2012 to 2014.

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