Former school board member Ray Gilbert charged with embezzlement

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By Renee Sloan, Page Designer/Staff Writer

A pastor and former Brunswick County board of education member was arrested and charged with two counts of embezzlement last week.

According to Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Emily Flax, Ray Gilbert was arrested for embezzling funds from the Parent-Teacher Association at Jessie Mae Monroe Elementary School.

One count is for the amount of $1,128 and the second count is for $2,500.

Flax said school officials alerted law enforcement.

“We investigated and issued warrants,” Flax said.

The incidents are reported to have occurred between Nov. 1, 2011, and June 3, 2012, for the first count and between July 1, 2012, and June 20, 2013, for the second count.

School officials at Jessie Mae Monroe referred a Beacon reporter to Brunswick County Schools’ spokeswoman Jessica Swencki for comment.

Swencki said, “Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) act as independent support organization for schools. Their actions, including financial accounting, are not governed by the schools they support or the Brunswick County School system.” 

The Beacon contacted the treasurer for Jessie Mae Monroe Elementary’s PTA, Betty Lou Smurro, who said she could not comment on the matter.

A Beacon reporter spoke with Jessie Mae Monroe Elementary School’s incoming incoming PTA president, Melissa Burachynski, who said she couldn’t say much because it is an ongoing investigation. But she did confirm that Gilbert was president of the PTA at Jessie Mae last year, and his term was up at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

Burachynski said the PTA noticed a discrepancy in funds and reported it to authorities, but she could not give any other details about the case.

“The PTA is totally cooperating with the police, and we’re totally cooperating with the school,” she said. “Things will be turned around, and we’re looking forward to a great year next year.”

Gilbert served on the Brunswick County Board of Education from 2004-2008 and has also served on the board for the Southeastern Center of Mental Health. He ran for a seat on the Brunswick County School Board in the 2012 election but was defeated by the incumbent, Olaf “Bud” Thorsen.

In 2007, while Gilbert served on the board of education, District Court Judge Jerry Jolly placed a one-year domestic violence order against Gilbert, who admitted to an extramarital relationship with Yvonne Hankins, a West Brunswick High School secretary. Hankins claimed Gilbert threatened her, causing Jolly to issue the domestic violence order. The board of education later voted to ban Gilbert from all school property.

The domestic violence order was dropped in April 2008, and Hankins later dismissed her complaint. The board also rescinded the resolution banning Gilbert from school property.

According to a candidate questionnaire returned in October 2012, Gilbert listed his profession as a pastor, and Good Shepherd Community Church in Tabor City currently lists him as its pastor on the website.

The Beacon reached out to Gilbert for a comment, but multiple messages were not returned.

Renee Sloan is a staff writer with The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890, or email her at rsloan@brunswickbeacon.com.