Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Jan 12 2021

Charity can pay veterans back wages as a result of $1 million payout in AG lawsuit

Former manager spent money meant for veteran wages, housing repairs on personal expenses, bail

TACOMA — As a result of Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit, non-profit organization Veterans Independent Enterprises of Washington (VIEW) has received $1 million — the maximum allowed under its insurance policy — to pay its creditors, including 74 veterans who are owed wages. The employees’ claims range from $192 to $48,925 in unpaid wages, totaling $310,489.37.

Former operations manager Rosemary Hibbler significantly contributed to VIEW’s decline, neglecting VIEW’s transitional housing for veterans, receiving  more than $850,000 from VIEW bank accounts and misappropriating nearly $200,000 from VIEW’s debit card, including withdrawing money at local casinos and buying gambling credits. As a result of the lawsuit, Hibbler is barred from ever working in Washington’s charitable sector, or accepting a job where she handles money in any capacity. Hibbler did not admit to her misconduct, but “agrees that sufficient evidence exists” to support the allegations. The two former board members, Donald Hutt and Gary Peterson, whose neglect allowed Hibbler’s misconduct, are also barred from working in the charitable sector.

At Ferguson’s request, the court appointed a receiver to take over VIEW’s operations. The receiver, Daniel Bugbee — himself a veteran — will use the $1 million to settle VIEW’s estate and pay creditors, including wage claimants. Because of the Attorney General’s Office lawsuit, VIEW will be in a position to pay all employees the wages they are owed. All distributions will require final approval of the court. Bugbee will contact the veterans once the court approves distributions on their wage claims.

Once Bugbee resolves all claims against VIEW’s receivership estate, he will work with a transitional board of directors to wind up VIEW’s operations and dissolve the corporation. Any remaining assets will be transferred to another tax-exempt nonprofit with a similar mission.

Bugbee began the winding-up process by transitioning VIEW’s operations to Nine9Line Veterans Services, another Pierce County non-profit with a similar charitable mission. Nine9Line already hired much of VIEW’s former staff and accepted oversight of VIEW’s transitional housing for veterans.

“Our case put money toward making things right with the veterans VIEW employed,” Ferguson said. “My office will keep fighting for veterans.”

 

Lawsuit and resolution

VIEW, a Tacoma-based nonprofit, formed in 1988 to provide housing and job opportunities to veterans in need, primarily those who are unemployed, recovering from addiction or have a criminal record. Over the years, VIEW employed hundreds of veterans who provided various services to businesses — for example, restoring respirators for Boeing. Many of these veteran employees also lived in VIEW’s transitional housing.

Ferguson filed the lawsuit against VIEW, its former operations manager, Rosemary Hibbler, and board members Donald Hutt and Gary Peterson in November 2019. The lawsuit alleges Hibbler spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of the organization’s money for personal gain, including ATM withdrawals at casinos and her own personal bills. Meanwhile, VIEW failed to pay for repairs to low-income veteran housing, wages to its veteran employees, and, at one point, laid off its entire staff and asked them to “volunteer” their labor. Despite many warnings of this conduct, including multiple investigative reports on KING 5, Hutt and Peterson continued to employ Hibbler and tacitly approved her many illegal purchases on VIEW’s account.

In a resolution filed in Pierce County Superior Court, VIEW’s insurance company will pay $1 million to resolve Ferguson’s lawsuit, the maximum allowed by VIEW’s insurance policy. The Attorney General’s Office will return this money to VIEW. Bugbee, the receiver, will use the funds to pay VIEW’s debts. Any leftover money, and VIEW’s other remaining assets, will be distributed to another nonprofit that will continue VIEW’s original mission.

Among VIEW’s debts are claims for back wages by 74 former employees. Some are part of a pending class-action lawsuit, others were filed individually. Under Washington state law, the claims are presumed to be valid unless the receiver challenges them in court.

Because the insurance company has a duty to defend the organization’s officers, it is responsible for the legal defense costs for Hutt, Peterson, Hibbler and VIEW itself. In order to obtain a settlement with the insurance company, the state agreed not to seek additional funds from any of the defendants.

 

Misconduct and mismanagement

Hibbler violated the law in her management of VIEW. From the judgment entered against her:

“During her employment with VIEW, Hibbler received more than $850,000 from VIEW bank accounts either through direct bank transfers, direct deposits, and/or checks.

“During her employment with VIEW, Hibbler misappropriated approximately $192,314 by using a debit card to withdraw (a) funds from VIEW’s corporate bank account(s) to purchase gambling credits at Pierce County casinos and (b) cash from ATMs located in casinos. During the time Hibbler was responsible for managing VIEW’s accounts, she withdrew an additional $83,937 in cash from ATMs, without providing accounting or other records indicating how such funds were utilized for VIEW’s benefit or operation.”

Hibbler misappropriated the organization’s funds in multiple ways, including bailing herself out of jail after an arrest, and paying her criminal defense attorneys and her personal IRS debts.

Under Hibbler’s management, VIEW neglected maintenance on the veterans’ transitional housing. In 2017, VIEW was evicted from its office space in Fife after Hibbler refused to pay rent because she was “unhappy” with the lease the board signed.

Hibbler has a history of financial crimes. From 2007 to 2011, Hibbler was convicted of ten counts of felony theft or forgery. In addition, multiple civil judgments were entered against her.

Before she was hired by VIEW, Hibbler was fired multiple times over allegations that she misappropriated her previous employers’ funds. One of her former employers, another non-profit called Sober Solutions, sued her over financial mismanagement. In 2017, a judge entered a default judgment against Hibbler and ordered her to pay more than $200,000 to Sober Solutions.

Hibbler filed for bankruptcy three times. Her most recent attempt, filed in 2019, was dismissed by the bankruptcy court earlier this year.

Until the Attorney General’s lawsuit, Hibbler remained employed at VIEW, even though Hutt and Peterson received multiple warnings about her conduct. One of VIEW’s shop managers called the police after noticing that Hibbler apparently forged checks with Peterson’s signature. In response, Hutt and Peterson decided to fire the shop manager.

The board also kept Hibbler in her position even after she was arrested while employed at VIEW and after several KING 5 reports exposing her conduct.

Assistant Attorneys General Joshua Studor, Heidi Anderson and Lynda Atkins are leading the case for the Attorney General’s Office.

-30-

The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

 

Media Contact:

Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov

General contacts: Click here