Local News

Arrests Taint This Chapter of Museum's History

Posted August 31, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— The news gets worse for theNorth Carolina Museum of History. The director of the museum's booster group was charged Thursday with taking $15,000. On Friday, another employee was arrested for taking five times that amount.

The 15,000-memberN.C. Museum of History Associatesgroup raises about $2 million each year. The money goes toward exhibits and programs. It appears the group had trouble keeping track of all the money.

A former bookkeeper with the museum's fundraising arm has turned herself in to police. They charged Leanne Harris with cutting $75,000 worth of checks to herself.

"That's how she would be able to move money within the organization, and convert some to her own personal use," says Raleigh police Capt. D.S. Overman.

This comes one day after the organization's director, Eve Williamson, was charged with putting $15,000 of personal expenses on the booster group's credit card.

"The role between ownership and employee gets blurred," says district attorney Colon Willoughby. "Sometimes folks take greater liberties as an employee than they should."

Investigators say the arrests cover most of the problems surrounding the North Carolina Museum of History Associates. Overman says police are still following information, but no more arrests are imminent.

Despite the problems, the museum is behind the booster group's longtime director.

In a written statement,N.C. Department of Cultural Resourcesspokeswoman Mary Cook says the department is "saddened by the events of the past two days." She says the department feels Williamson's conduct has been "above reproach" in its dealings with her.

Through her attorney, Williamson says she is shocked and appalled by the charges and is eager to clear her name. Leanne Harris did not return WRAL's calls, but she told investigators she did not do anything wrong.