Crime

Orting School Board president commits suicide as court appearance loomed for homeowners association theft

Iris Lilley
Iris Lilley

Orting School Board President Iris Lilley killed herself on the day she was to appear in court for allegedly stealing from her homeowners association.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the 59-year-old’s death was a suicide, but when she died is uncertain. Officials presume it was Tuesday morning.

Lilley’s family found her body Tuesday afternoon in a wooded area of Graham after she left a note with the location, sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said Thursday.

Prosecutors charged her with first-degree theft May 17, and she was to be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Superior Court in downtown Tacoma.

Court records didn’t list an attorney for Lilley, and News Tribune efforts to reach her family and the current president of the homeowners association weren’t successful Thursday.

Charging papers give this account:

Lilley was the treasurer of her Orting-area homeowners association from February 2011 through March 2015, during which time she withdrew $162,313.88 from the association’s bank accounts.

A new treasurer discovered the withdrawals a year ago after requesting bank records.

Then the association’s board learned homeowners were $88,000 behind on payments to their water company, which meant each of the 42 homes in the group had to pay $2,000 to cover the bill.

There wasn’t enough in the association’s bank accounts to cover it.

As treasurer, Lilley was responsible for paying the group’s bills, including those of the water company, either by check, or online.

At some point, she told the association’s president that she was behind on payments — though not which ones, or by how much — and that she planned to get them up to date.

Later, in 2014, the president found the water bill hadn’t been paid recently, and when she tried to contact Lilley, she didn’t respond.

The association’s secretary spoke to the water company that year, and was told it had tried to contact Lilley about the missing payments but hadn’t received a response.

County records show the association put a lien on Lilley’s house in December, contending she and her husband owed the group $2,154.67.

Superior Court records indicate Iris Lilley had personal financial trouble during her tenure as the homeowners association treasurer. In January 2012, Citibank took her to court to collect about $8,000 in unpaid credit card debt.

Lilley joined the Orting School Board in January 2014, appointed to fill a vacancy for the District No. 3 position. She was elected to the seat in November.

School District Superintendent Marci Shepard issued a statement expressing sorrow over Lilley’s death, and indicating the district was aware of the pending criminal charges against her.

The accusations were unrelated to Lilley’s position on the school board, according to Shepard’s statement.

“Working with the district’s business director, I have found no reason to suspect Ms. Lilley committed any illegal or unauthorized financial transactions while a board member for the district,” according to Shepard’s statement.

The statement also pointed out that board members have limited access to district money, and that the district has protocols in place to guard against loss.

The School District announced Lilley’s death Wednesday on its website in a note from Shepard that said: “Our school community experienced a tragedy yesterday, with the death of our School Board President Iris Lilley.”

Lilley was a 15-year resident of Orting and an employee at Microsoft, according to her statement to the News Tribune voters guide in November.

“Our students, staff and schools greatly benefited from her expertise and passion for education,” Shepard’s note said.

Lilley was married and had several adult children.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635, @DebbieCafazzo

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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