GREEN BAY, Wis. – A former Bay Port High School dance team coach is facing multiple theft charges after being accused of stealing thousands of dollars from multiple team fundraisers.
Brittany N. Rowell, 31, of Green Bay, is charged in Brown County Circuit Court with four counts of stealing from a workplace. She is accused of pocketing nearly $7,000 from the team’s account since 2015.
According to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, officials at Bay Port High School first noticed something was wrong in January 2017 after a school bookkeeper discovered $300 in cash was unaccounted for in deposits to the team’s account ahead of a craft show fundraiser.
A woman who helped oversee the event told authorities Rowell had taken it upon herself to deposit the money into the team’s account. Checks were properly deposited several weeks later, but the cash was nowhere to be found.
The missing money from the craft show prompted an investigation into other past fundraisers. It was concluded $2,915 was also missing from money raised during a 2016 dance team car wash and another $3,084.50 was missing from a coupon book fundraiser from that same year.
In an interview with a Brown County Sheriff’s deputy, Rowell admitted to taking the nearly $3,000 from the car wash.
“I believe I took that money to pay bills such as car payments, food, cellphone, credit cards,” she said. “I was behind four to five months on my car payment and was trying to take care of my kids. I was scared of losing my car and not being able to take care of my kids; not being able to give them what they needed or feed them”
She denies taking the $300 from the craft show in 2017.
Rowell also told a sergeant with the sheriff’s office she has nothing to do with the missing money from the coupon book sales. She said the fundraiser was a “mess” and that it would be extremely difficult to determine if there was money missing or how much money was missing based on the mismanagement of the fundraiser from the start.
Bay Port High School terminated Rowell’s employment Jan. 25, 2017, the complaint says.
Since then, Rowell has volunteered as an assistant poms coach at Little Chute High School.
She volunteered with the poms team from October through March of the current school year, Little Chute School District Superintendent David Botz said Thursday.
Rowell’s background check, conducted by an outside firm, turned up nothing, Botz said. “We were unaware of any issues at Bay Port until” it was reported, he said.
Rowell worked with the kids and on routines, but never took part in any fundraising or handled any funds, Botz said.
The criminal complaint states Rowell apologized during a discussion with law enforcement.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t set a better example for the girls to follow,” Rowell said. “I wish I wouldn’t have done it because it was never worth losing what I lost in the process. The team and the people of Bay Port High School trusted me to do what was best and I let them down.”
If convicted of all charges, Rowell faces up to 8½ years in prison and up to $40,000 in fines.
Rowell’s first court appearance is scheduled for June 15.