A Northfield woman accused of stealing more than $17,000 from the Rice County nonprofit she was the head of pleaded guilty to the felony charge on Friday in Rice County District Court.
Candace Kaye Nordine, 55, was the executive director of Northfield-based Project SIGHT, an organization whose mission was teen pregnancy prevention in Rice County. In August 2010, board members discovered that Nordine had been withdrawing thousands of dollars from the nonprofit’s account for non-organization purposes and confronted her about financial discrepancies, according to a criminal complaint filed with Rice County District Court.
Nordine, who was charged in January, had originally pleaded not guilty. A jury trial was scheduled for last week but was canceled with the guilty plea.
Judge John T. Cajacob ordered a stay of adjudication on the felony charge, meaning if Nordine meets all the requirements of an 18-month probation, the felony charge will be dropped.
Under conditions of her probation, Nordine must pay $22,712.13 in restitution to Project SIGHT and serve 15 days of sentence-to-serve community service. Nordine has already paid $14,512.13 towards the restitution and still owes $8,200.
The felony charge carried a maximum penalty of not more than 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.
On Aug. 24, 2010, board members met with Nordine and confronted her with two invoices totaling more than $3,400 for two sports businesses, according to charges. Both invoices indicated that Nordine had used cash from Project SIGHT’s account to pay for sports items, though when a board member contacted the two businesses, they said those invoices were never made with them, according to the complaint.
Nordine admitted to board members that the invoices were fakes, the charges say, and she said she made cash withdrawals for personal use. She said she had uncontrolled spending habits, but did not give a reason for the theft, according to the complaint.
She told the board at the Aug. 24 meeting that she began stealing in 2008 and resigned at that meeting, charges say. Nordine had been with the nonprofit since 2002.
In addition to the two invoices, Northfield investigators found that Nordine had signed for 12 cash withdrawals from Project SIGHT's bank account and made two other withdrawals in which the slips were made out to Nordine, according to the complaint. In all, police say Nordine stole $17,395.38 between June 15, 2009, and July 8, 2010. A $300 withdrawal believed to be made by Nordine on Sept. 4, 2008, is not part of the total, according to charges.
In her resignation letter, Nordine "accepted responsibility for [her] actions" for the "years of 2008-2010," according to charges, and also admitted to her "misuse of organizational funds."
As a result of the alleged theft, board members told Northfield police that the nonprofit, which started in 1996, had to dissolve at the end of 2010 because of money owed for rent to the Northfield Community Resource Center, taxes and additional debt the organization owed other nonprofits.
In May 2012, Ardys Johnson, former chair of Project SIGHT, filed an affidavit for restitution against Nordine, according to Minnesota court records and the Rice County Attorney's Office. Before the nonprofit can legally dissolve, it must pay its debt, which is what Nordine's restitution will cover.
Before it stopped operating, Project SIGHT received funding from the Northfield Area United Way, the Faribault United Way and received contributions from individuals, churches, organizations and businesses.
Project SIGHT’s net assets went from $259,779 in 2007 to a deficit of $15,579 in 2009, according to tax records. Project SIGHT's 2009 taxes, which were submitted to the Internal Revenue Service in November 2010 and months after Nordine's alleged theft ended, indicated $16,100 in "missing funds."
Project SIGHT's Finances