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New Times / News

The following article was posted on July 30th, 2014, in the New Times - Volume 29, Issue 1 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 29, Issue 1

The Grover Beach Exploration Station has closed temporarily amid embezzlement charges against a former employee

BY ADRIANA CATANZARITE

With one employee facing charges of embezzlement and another mysteriously fired, the Exploration Station in Grover Beach is currently closed.

The closure is temporary, according to Exploration Station administrators, who shuttered the building and made an announcement in the middle of a Lego Robotics summer camp on July 24. In their announcement, the station’s board of directors said all programs would be closed down during a reorganization process.

Weeks earlier, former employee Stacy Halvorsen was arrested in Grover Beach on June 6 and charged with one count of embezzlement and three counts of forgery. Halvorsen worked as a part-time administrative employee in 2012, according to the station’s tax forms. Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerret Gran said Halvorsen is accused of stealing about $6,362.51 from the South County Family Educational and Cultural Center, a nonprofit that operates the Exploration Station. As of press time, she was scheduled for a July 31 arraignment.

According to court records, Halvorsen pleaded no contest in 2004 to two charges for writing bad checks. She was sentenced to two years’ probation and to pay a $200 fine. Halvorsen’s attorney, Matt Guerrero, didn’t respond to requests for comment from New Times.

Board President Anita Shower said Halvorsen’s recent arrest and prosecution wouldn’t have any bearing on the Exploration Station’s future.

Adding to Exploration Station’s turmoil, Program Director Tosha Punches, who worked at the station for five years, was recently fired. Shower declined to give a reason behind the decision. Punches declined to comment.

“Miss Tosha was let go and paid for her services,” Shower said by way of explanation. “We are current with what is owed to her.”

With the station’s closure, the annual Chemistry of Cocktails fundraiser was canceled as well. Shower said the board was unable to reach an agreement regarding the guidelines of the fundraiser.

But the series of events has left several volunteers puzzled by the situation.

“The board is being very circular in their statements,” said Claude Hartman, a volunteer. “It’s confusing as to what their real attitude is towards everything, and it’s hard to read between the lines. They say that they are reorganizing, but why they had to close down in order to do that is a mystery to me.”