Over $200,000 allegedly stolen from The Dartmouth, report to police says
The funds were apparently taken during the tenure of the former office manager, who worked at the paper part-time from 2012 until her resignation in September 2021.
Over a period of at least five years, funds totaling more than $200,000 were taken from accounts belonging to The Dartmouth, Inc., according to reports and documents submitted to the Hanover Police department by The Dartmouth’s publisher and reviewed by reporters.
The missing funds were discovered and reported to the Hanover Police department in the wake of the “unexpected” resignation of The Dartmouth’s office manager, Nicole Chambers, from the newspaper’s employment on Sept. 28, according to a report submitted to Hanover police on Oct. 6. The Dartmouth publisher Olivia Gomez ’22 reported to police that funds had apparently been spent on “expenses having no apparent connection to the business or operations of a daily student newspaper in Hanover, N.H.”
The report to the police details a series of PayPal transfers from The Dartmouth’s accounts to the former office manager in amounts that, according to the report, exceeded her “agreed-upon” pay for part-time work. Financial transactions also “were inaccurately recorded to the QuickBooks [accounting software] general ledger of The Dartmouth,” the report adds. Additionally, the Oct. 6 report describes expenses, paid for using the newspaper’s debit card, that were apparently unrelated to the operations of the newspaper, including ticket purchases on multiple airlines, hotel stays in several states and in the Caribbean and purchases at retailers such as Amazon, Etsy, Petsmart, Urban Outfitters and Wayfair.
Hanover Police lieutenant Michael Schibuola declined to comment on the allegations, writing in an emailed statement that the department is investigating.
Chambers, who had access to a debit card, bank account, PayPal account and QuickBooks accounting software belonging to The Dartmouth, had been in charge of initiating payments to vendors and making entries in QuickBooks as part of her job, according to the Oct. 6 report. She resigned, the report adds, “after the Publisher had requested that [she] provide certain documents concerning the financial affairs of The Dartmouth.”
According to the documents, The Dartmouth’s investigation into the allegedly misappropriated funds has been hindered by the apparent deletion of QuickBooks data from a company-owned laptop that was in Chambers’ possession, as well as information missing from Venmo, PayPal and Amazon accounts used by the paper, which were also apparently deleted. Additionally, “on or around” the date of Chambers’ resignation, a “large number” of email messages were deleted from two email accounts belonging to The Dartmouth, one of which was associated with a PayPal account that The Dartmouth used, according to the report to the police.
The financial statements of The Dartmouth are reviewed each year by a certified public accounting firm in Lebanon, and the annual financial statements are presented to and approved each year by the organization’s Board, according to the report to the police.
“Recent financial statements presented to the Board of Proprietors ... do not show the travel and retail charges, and they do not show many of the PayPal transfers referenced above, as employee compensation,” the report states.
In an emailed statement, Gomez wrote that The Dartmouth, in consultation with its Board of Proprietors, is working with its insurer to take actions to eliminate “adverse” financial impacts and strengthen its internal controls over accounting. Gomez added that, despite the apparent misappropriation, The Dartmouth’s financial position “remains strong.”
“The Dartmouth’s endowment has not been directly affected by recent events,” Gomez wrote. “Its editorial operations have not been, and will not be, affected.”
The report to the police also states that Chambers had expressed a “willing[ness] to repay” the funds through her lawyer. Chambers’ lawyer, Joseph Garrison of Franconia, New Hampshire, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The Dartmouth is published by The Dartmouth, Inc., which is organized as a non-profit corporation in New Hampshire. The Dartmouth was founded in 1799 and is America’s oldest college newspaper. Although The Dartmouth leases office space from Dartmouth College in Robinson Hall, the organization is independent of the College, and is supported financially by advertising sales, investment income and donations.
Correction appended (9:08 a.m., Nov. 12, 2021): A previous version of this article stated that Chambers’ start date at the paper was in 2009. She started at the paper in 2012. The date has been corrected.