Chairwoman of the Ludington Petunia Parade Charged with Embezzlement

Ludington Petunia Parade Chairwoman (now former) featured in MCP last May, is now once again featured in the Mason County Press as being the prime suspect of embezzling nearly $50,000 from that organization in a period spanning up to six years.  Brown has served also as a reserve officer at the Mason County Sheriff's Department, which makes this significant, because the Ludington Police Department's detective J.B. Wells has established there is enough evidence to formally charge her. 

It looks like somebody may have got their hands dirty, dipping into the flower pot once too often. 

LUDINGTON — The former chairwoman of the Ludington Petunia Parade has been charged with embezzlement. Donna Lee Brown, 60, 4152 W. Washington Rd., Pentwater, was arraigned last week in front of the Mason County magistrate on a summons in 79th District Court.

Brown has been accused of taking $47,807.15 from the organization since she became chairwoman in November 2007 until November 2013. Ludington Police Chief Mark Barnett said members of the Petunia Parade board, a private non-profit organization not affiliated with the city, approached his office in November with a concern of discrepancies in the organization’s financial books. Barnett said Det. J.B. Wells was put on the case and concluded that there was evidence to charge Brown with embezzlement. Barnett said Brown, who served many years as a volunteer Mason County Sheriff’s Office reserve officer, has been cooperative with the investigation.

Brown was arraigned Friday on the charge of embezzlement of more than $20,000 and less than $50,000. She is scheduled for a Jan. 29 preliminary examination in front of Judge Pete Wadel. A $5,000 personal bail was set.

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I love it. This woman was on a fund raising campaign while at the same time, stealing the money raised. A perfect scam for at least 6 years anyway. Browns quote from the Mason Ccounty Press “Costs for planting and maintaining the petunias increase each year,” Now we know why. It's to bad she will be forever remembered for being a thief instead of a helpful neighbor.

My thought when I saw the part about police officer was hmm well not so nice. Didn't we just have a female corrections officer arrested to?  Is there becoming a pattern here?

I actually look at those two revelations as a positive result for our local area's transparency.  Either of those two alleged occurrences, the female MCSO assaulting a co-worker, and this former MCSO embezzling cash from a non-profit, could have been covered up or suppressed by the local press, sheriff's office, etc., but they did leak out to the public. 

I credit that more to the competition between the COLDNews and the MCP for breaking news, than anything else.   

Good point XFLD

I imagine she has already spent the money so is she required to pay taxes on that stolen cash? If so, that means she's in trouble with the IRS as well.

This is very unfortunate.  For the past several years, there have been discussions about not having the petunias any longer because of the cost and because they didn't have enough money.  I guess Ms Brown was taking all of that money! 

I don't know much about this organization.  Are they at 501(c)(3)?  Do they have a formal committee with a treasurer?  If so, why was Brown (as chairperson) handling the funds? 

As part of her sentencing, she should have to plant every freaking petunia by herself next Spring! 

According to this letter from the Petunia Committee, at the end of 2012 in a request for more funding:  "Without increased manpower, as well as funding from private citizens, industries, and businesses within our community, this program will be in jeopardy. The total cost of the petunia project for the 2012 planting season was $ 14,000.00. Our investment through the Community Foundation for Mason County provides approximately $ 5,000.00. Consequently, we will need to rely on donations for the remaining balance to cover necessary expenditures (petunias, soil conditioner, maintenance of watering truck, fuel, storage facility rental, mailings and soil replacement for some areas).

Our program is supported entirely by volunteer efforts. We struggle each year to fin people who are willing to make this commitment. The advisory committee is comprised of nine volunteers from Ludington, Pentwater, Scottville, and Walhalla. They meet throughout the year to evaluate, plan and purchase petunias for the upcoming season."

If the number are true, roughly 60-70% of the Petunia money was embezzled by Ms. Brown over that period, and roughly, the program was overfunded by a factor of three.   

Very shocking revelation, to say the least. I graduated with Donna (Hansen) Brown, and she was always a very intelligent and honest kid growing up. I haven't seen Donna now since about 2010, at a class reunion. If true, it's a very despicable episode and I am bewildered at the reason for her alleged actions. I guess you know times are real hard when someone as honest as she used to be stoops to this.


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