The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a Camas resident for misappropriating almost $30,000 from the Camas-Washougal Aviation Association.
Kent Mehrer resigned from his position as CWAA’s president on July 27, 2022, after Sally Luse, the organization’s then-treasurer, discovered that a large amount of money — later determined to be $28,512 — was missing from its bank account.
“I was voted in as treasurer in May, and it took until July 26, to get Kent pinned down and take him to the bank to get my name on the account,” Luse said. “We had just done our steak feed for Camas Days, so I deposited $2,000 (that we raised from that event) into the account. When I got home from the bank and looked at the slip, it said we had $485. I called the bank and asked them what was going on. They said we had $480 in checking and $5 in savings. I said, ‘What? We should have had almost $30,000 there.'”
Luse immediately suspected Mehrer of theft.
“It had to be (Kent),” she said. “He was the only one that had the debit card.”
Luse called other CWAA board members and arranged a meeting for the following night to discuss the situation. At that meeting, CWAA member Bob Martilla presented the group with a resignation letter, purportedly written by Mehrer.
“I have made many personal financial mistakes and borrowed money from the CWAA accounts,” the letter states. “I know it is wrong and unforgivable. … I will acquire the funds I borrowed and return them to the CWAA. It will take me a while to do that.”
Luse said that before she was named as the organization’s treasurer in May 2022, Mehrer was “unwilling to get somebody in that position when the previous treasurer quit.”
“I’m a retired auditor, so I kept saying, ‘We need to get somebody in that treasurer (spot),'” she said. “At the board meetings and the general meetings, we weren’t getting information on what was in the account. I said, ‘I want to see the account,’ and nobody ever asked for the bank statements or anything. I kept saying, ‘Where? Why? What?’ And nobody listened.
Luse said that the theft happened “gradually” rather than all at once.
“Kent would smile at you every morning and take the debit card and move money from our account to his account every afternoon without anybody knowing,” she said.
The CWAA has long been a nonprofit organization that promotes aviation, supports the long-term operation and survival of Grove Field, and mentors future pilots through its scholarship program. The CWAA’s annual Steak Feed fundraiser is held on the weekend as the popular Camas Days festival, which draws thousands of visitors to Camas each July, and is often included in Camas Days promotional materials as part of the multi-day community celebration.
Luse, who stepped down from her role as the group’s treasurer in early January, said Mehrer’s alleged actions have cost the CWAA its nonprofit status.
“He didn’t pay the bill, so we do not have an EIN (employer identification number),” she said. “I am in the process of working with the Secretary of State to get all that back so that we can change the bank account. We can’t even change the bank account without an EIN number. … It’s a mess.”
Port of Camas-Washougal commissioners approved an agreement to purchase Mehrer’s 5-acre airport-adjacent property for $900,000 in December 2022. The Port gave Mehrer $20,000 at the conclusion of the sale and agreed to pay off the remaining mortgage balance on the property ($435,000). Mehrer will receive the remaining $445,000 in the form of monthly payments during the next 15 years.
“The $20,000 was supposed to be for us, and we never saw it,” Luse said.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office denied a public records request from The Post-Record, stating that the case “is still under investigation.”
“I can confirm there is an active and pending investigation with the Camas-Washougal Aviation Association, the victim of theft, (which) alleges that (Kent) Mehrer stole the funds,” Clark County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jon Shields told The Post-Record.
Rick Andersen, the CWAA’s new president, said Luse reported the incident to the local authorities, but declined further comment.
“At this point I will leave the public comment to Kent and to the sheriff’s office,” Andersen said.
Mehrer had not responded to The Post-Record’s repeated requests for comment in time for this newspaper’s print deadline.