Club treasurer stole about $70,000The former treasurer of the Corn Palace Balloon Club on Tuesday admitted to stealing more than $70,000 from the organization, an admission that another club member hopes will start the healing process for the club’s board of directors.
By: Lisa Kirkie The Daily Republic, Worthington Daily Globe
The former treasurer of the Corn Palace Balloon Club on Tuesday admitted to stealing more than $70,000 from the organization, an admission that another club member hopes will start the healing process for the club’s board of directors.
Wayne Gordon Hajek, 54, appeared in Davison County court and pleaded guilty to grand theft-over $500, a Class 4 felony. Hajek admitted to taking $71,000 from the club between Jan. 1, 2002, and April 30, 2006.
“I knew the plea was forthcoming,” said club member David Miller, who took over as treasurer in 2006. “There have been some self-inflicted safeguards that would make this much less likely to happen in the future. We just want closure and that’s what we are trying to get to.
“I think in time, we will get the closure.”
In court, Hajek told Judge Bruce Anderson, who was filling in for Judge Tim Bjorkman, that he often paid himself “above what was owed for doing certain jobs and also was paying some of his own personal expenses” out of the club fund by writing checks and utilizing the debit card to which he had access.
The charge against Hajek came after some board members questioned the management of the organization’s funds. An investigation ensued.
“Funds were not showing up where they were supposed to be and he came clean during (a meeting),” said Pat Smith, Davison County state’s attorney. “He clarified what the board members’ suspicions were.”
In exchange for Hajek’s guilty plea, the state has agreed to leave the sentencing open, Smith said. This means both sides agree to let Bjorkman use his discretion after hearing victim impact statements and reading the pre-sentence investigation report.
Those statements will be given between now and actual sentencing.
Smith said he was told that Hajek already has repaid the $71,000.
Hajek faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in the state penitentiary and a $20,000 fine.
Anderson ordered a pre-sentence investigation. A sentencing date has been scheduled for Dec. 9.
According to an entry on the Web site dakotamainstreet.com, the Corn Palace Balloon Club is a fully certified nonprofit corporation, dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the specially shaped hot-air balloons formerly associated with the Soukup and Thomas International Balloon and Airship Museum in Mitchell.
The museum closed several years ago, and its former Main Street building is now the Pepsi Cola Theatre for the Performing Arts.
The club’s pilots fly in various rallies across the United States.