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Ponder booster club members 'relieved' after months-long investigation

Members of the Ponder Fine Arts Booster Club were "relieved" to see a 14-month investigation into missing club funds end in an arrest Thursday evening, said Wendy Cely, the club's president.

Bronwyn WrightCourtesy photo
Bronwyn Wright
Courtesy photo

Bronwyn Lenore Wright, 44, has been charged with a theft of property between $20,000 and $100,000, which is a third-degree felony. She was released from Denton County Jail on Friday after posting $10,000 bail.

Wright is accused of pocketing about $21,000 from the bank account of what was then known as the Ponder Band Booster Club between August 2014 and December 2015. If convicted, Wright could face up to 10 years in state prison.

Cely said Wright was the club's former president and had complete control over the group's finances from May 2014 to December 2015. Wright, whose three daughters attended Ponder High School, had been a member of the group for about seven years when she took over. The handful of active club members simply deferred to her at the time.

"No one really said anything against what she thought, because we just thought she knew what she was doing," Cely said.

A 14-month investigation starting in January 2016 revealed $21,685.36 either was unaccounted for or completely missing from the club's account at Bank of the West, according to a Ponder police arrest affidavit.

As club officials closely scrutinized ATM withdrawals and transactions, they discovered Wright opened a secondary account in October 2014 without their knowledge, the affidavit said.

Wright made several withdrawals and transactions from the secondary account as well as the club's main account, the affidavit said. Bank records showed multiple transactions at various stores and restaurants, including Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Sonic Drive-In, RaceTrac, QuikTrip and Spirit Halloween.

Before club members were notified about the missing funds, the Ponder High band learned it was invited to participate in the 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl festivities, scheduled for Atlanta in December.

The trip initially was canceled because of minimal funds in the bank, but local businesses and good Samaritans donated thousands of dollars to recoup the club's lost expenses, according to previous reports in the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Among those donors, James Wood car dealerships in Denton and Decatur donated $20,000. Cely said the band was able to perform at the game because of the donations and hard work from club members.

In the months following the ordeal, the booster club reorganized and voted to officially rename the group from the Ponder Band Booster Club to the Ponder Fine Arts Booster Club, making it inclusive of the district's choir program. Cely said the group has become more organized and has amended existing bylaws to focus more on financial protection procedures.

Now, the club is thriving, she said.

"We have over $20,000 in the bank right now," Cely said. "I feel it's fruitful. We have always been fruitful. It's just that somebody was taking it from us, and we didn't know how fruitful it was."

Ponder ISD Superintendent Bruce Yeager said he feels the students in the district have moved on.

"We are hopeful that this step in the process brings everyone nearer to closure," he said. "At Ponder ISD, our No. 1 priority is always the safety, well-being and academic advancement of our students. And we feel like our students have moved on and gleaned valuable life lessons from the situation."

The high school band's director, Aaron Noland, declined to comment for this story

Staff writer Britney Tabor contributed to this report.

JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882.