Morgan Rafferty, an environmental activist and the former executive director of the nonprofit Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo County, pleaded no contest to charges that she embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo County and SLO Mothers for Peace.
Rafferty, 48, of Arroyo Grande, made the plea on Nov. 15 to two felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement in San Luis Obispo Superior Court. A plea of no contest results in a conviction but is not an admission of guilt.
The plea nearly caps a case that has stewed in hearings and other legal wrangling for more than 2 1/2 years. Rafferty, former executive director of ECOSLO and treasurer of the local nuclear-power activism group Mothers for Peace, was questioned by Arroyo Grande police officers after Mothers for Peace directors “started having problems with bills” and confronted Rafferty.
Rafferty, who had been treasurer since 2003, was reportedly unable to explain the purpose of several checks, which ranged as high as $13,500. Investigators from the District Attorney’s Office learned of her position at ECOSLO and warned directors there to check their books.
In June 2010, after an initial financial review, ECOSLO Chairman Clint Slaughter described several discrepancies in the nonprofit’s books, including an unauthorized annual pay raise Rafferty allegedly gave herself for $5,000, and eight additional paychecks she allegedly issued herself, according to police reports.
Slaughter couldn’t be reached as of press time, and SLO Mothers for Peace spokesperson Jane Swanson declined to comment on Rafferty’s plea.
According to District Attorney’s Office spokesman Jerret Gran, Rafferty faces a maximum of 180 days in jail in addition to an undetermined amount of restitution. She’s scheduled for sentencing Jan. 5.
Should she meet eligibility requirements from the Sheriff’s Department, Rafferty could possibly serve her sentence in home detention in lieu of jail time.