Elizabeth Katherine Bauer, the former president of P.U.P. Laguna (Protecting Unwanted Pets), was arrested last week for suspicion of embezzling nearly $72,000 from the pet rescue’s accounts over the past two years, police said.
Bauer, 40, of Mammoth Lakes, served as president of the all-volunteer organization from 2006-2011, and was taken into custody in Laguna Beach last week, according to police Lt. Jason Kravetz.
Though an independent non-profit, PUP’s services — rescuing adoptable dogs and underwriting procedures for shelter strays and community pets – are closely intermingled with the city-run Animal Shelter in Laguna Canyon. The permanent shelter reopened last August after extensive repairs due to flood damage, largely covered by public funds.
“We have no knowledge of their books,” said Jim Beres, the police department’s civilian supervisor, whose duties include the city’s animal services. The shelter’s three workers, civilian employees of the police department, are all PUP members. They feel betrayed, he said.
“They know their mission saving animals is going to be negatively impacted,” said Beres, pointing out that annual programs such as spay neuter and rabies clinics would likely not take place without PUP financial support. “There would be very good programs that wouldn’t occur,” he said.
One result of Bauer’s arrest, he suggested, may be to require best-management practices of any agency working in alliance with city departments. “How did the board lose control? That’s the $64,000 question,” asked Beres, who could not identify current board members.
Neither is that information available on PUP’s website. Nor is the organization listed on Guidestar, a data base of nonprofits and foundations.
After Bauer resigned in March, the new president noted several bank account irregularities and made repeated requests of Bauer for an explanation, but instead received excuses, he said.
The same day a crime report was filed, May 22, an investigator surprised Bauer when she arrived at the animal shelter for a meeting, Kravetz said.
After an interview, the investigator arrested Bauer after determining she had embezzled nearly $72,000 from P.U.P. Laguna accounts, Kravetz said.
Police allege Bauer used the money to pay rent on a Dana Point home, purchase ski lift tickets in Mammoth and to make repairs on her Mammoth Lakes property.
Bauer is listed as an active attorney with an office in Mammoth, according to the state bar’s website. She was admitted to the bar in 1998 and attended UC Irvine and Boston University’s law school. No one answered her office phone.
Bauer was booked in the city jail and posted bail the same day. She is due in court for arraignment on July 5, said Kravetz.