Alleged church embezzler quits job as school administrator
A Roberts woman accused of stealing from her church resigned her job as a St. Paul school administrator after a 19-week period of paid administrative leave.
St. Paul Public Schools placed Kara Amundson on leave Aug. 24 after the St. Croix County Sheriff's Office notified the district about the criminal investigation, human resources director Laurin Cathey said.
The district paid her a total of $56,589 before she resigned Jan. 6, Cathey said in response to a public records request. Amundson's salary as an assistant principal at Highland Park Middle School was $121,131.
Cathey said the district considered Amundson "innocent until proven guilty" and was waiting for the criminal investigation to conclude before taking action.
"It is frustrating to have to do that, and if we had other recourse we would certainly pursue it," he said.
Cathey wouldn't say whether Amundson was forced to resign her post or did so on her own.
Court records showed Amundson was the volunteer treasurer for New Centerville United Methodist Church in western Wisconsin from February 2006 to May 2015.
She allegedly stole $189,448 from the church in cash, checks and an unauthorized credit card account used to charge purchases at hotels, gas stations and clothing stores.
Amundson, 42, and her husband Michael LaVenture, 45, each are charged with five felony counts of theft in a business setting. Amundson also is charged with felony identity theft.
The couple pleaded not guilty Jan. 3.
Amundson previously worked at Highland Park High School and Creative Arts Secondary. District records show she had been employed by the district since 2007 but also worked there for a time starting in 1996. Amundson was the subject of two formal complaints but the district closed each complaint without disciplining her, Cathey said.
Cathey said there is no indication she stole school funds.
Online court records from Wisconsin point to years of financial problems for the couple. Amundson and her husband had liens filed against their property for delinquent taxes in seven different years between 2003 and 2013. Records show they've paid back $24,382 in taxes, interest and penalties and still owe $2,661.
Amundson also has had numerous judgments against her for several thousands of dollars in credit card debt and overdue payments to two companies involved with horseback riding. The St. Paul School District has garnished wages to pay off at least three such judgments.