Onalaska PTSA Treasurer Accused of Embezzling Over $18,000 Since February 2020


The former treasurer of the Onalaska Loggers Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) has pleaded not guilty to accusations that she embezzled over $18,000 from the association between February 2020 and October 2021.

Sara Beth Miller, 40, of Onalaska, has been charged with first-degree theft and first-degree identity theft after allegedly taking out a debit card in her name for the PTSA’s bank account and using it to make personal purchases.

The bank account associated with the card was intended to pay for a post office box and the PTSA’s insurance, according to court documents.

A PTSA member contacted the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office about “a large number of strange transactions not associated with PTSA activity” on Oct. 19, according to court documents.

While there was approximately $17,000 in the account in February 2020, the account held $20 at the time charges against Miller were filed on Nov. 8, 2021. The account had reportedly dwindled into the negative, and was brought back to a balance on March 31 when Miller deposited a personal check, according to court documents.

Account statements reportedly showed purchases at the Great Wolf Lodge, Amazon, Apple, a tattoo parlor, a fast food chain and other businesses

The account activity was discovered as the PTSA began trying to organize its fall fundraiser after being inactive since early 2020 due to the pandemic. While going through documents, the secretary discovered the association had been disaffiliated and had had its 501c3 nonprofit status and resellers permits revoked.

The PTSA’s current acting president, Cassie Twombly, reportedly told detectives “Miller had always been the treasurer and she assumed Miller was doing what she needed to be doing.” After reviewing the account statements, “she was shocked and disgusted at what was purchased,” according to court documents.

When contacted by a detective about the purchases, Miller reportedly said some of the purchases were for “school items” but she denied making any of the other purchases “that were obviously not associated with PTSA activity,” according to court documents.

She reportedly told detectives the debit card she took out in her name was a replacement of an already existing debit card associated with the account.

Miller was arrested on Friday, Nov. 5, and was released on Monday, Nov. 8, on $10,000 unsecured bail, meaning she does not have to pay any of the bail amount as long as she follows her conditions of release and shows up to mandatory court hearings.

She has been put on administrative leave from the Onalaska School District for the duration of the investigation, according to a Nov. 10 Facebook post by PTSA Acting Secretary Brittany Locklin.

Trial dates are scheduled to be set on Nov. 18.

In the meantime, the remaining PTSA board members are struggling to recover from the damage done to the association.

“The rest of the PTSA is extremely devastated that this ONE person single handedly tried to destroy the PTSA and the trust of the community but we have no plans to allow this person to ruin the hard work and efforts of the students, teachers, parents and members of this amazing Onalaska community,” Locklin said in the Facebook post.

PTSA board members will undergo training from the Washington State PTA and intend to re-register as a formal PTSA.

“My prayers and hope is that by next school year we will have a functioning PTSA again and a community that wants to keep its eyes on us so this NEVER happens again,” she said in the Facebook post.