Already under pressure from internal bickering, the Jonathan Association in Chaska has been rocked by allegations that a former bookkeeper stole more than $18,000 from the group.

The Chaska Police Department completed its investigation this month into the alleged theft and turned the case over to the Carver County Attorney's Office for the possible filing of criminal charges. The homeowners association is the largest in the state, with more than 2,300 households.

County Attorney James Keeler said this week that he does not know when a charging decision will be made by his office.

The revelation about the alleged theft comes as the association is in the middle of an internal struggle. A majority of the governing board's members want to break up the association by allowing some neighborhoods to leave the group.

The association is seeking members to join in a class action suit to, in effect, sue itself so a judge can decide if neighborhoods can leave the group.

The former employee is accused of using her association-issued credit card for personal expenses such as lunches, car washes, groceries and well-drilling at her home, said David Hellmuth, the association's attorney.

Total may top $30,000

Hellmuth said Thursday that the Jonathan Association believes the total amount misused is close to $31,000 and that the unauthorized purchases were rung up from October 2006 until May 2007.

"The association is extremely confident that many of the charges were personal expenses and not authorized," he said Thursday afternoon.

Dan Thue, the attorney representing the former employee, said his client had no comment. But he said he was surprised that the matter had even been forwarded to the county attorney's office.

"This is a big misunderstanding," Thue said, noting that the employee had accounted for all of the spending except about $600, which she had offered to pay back.

The woman was hired by the association in November 2005 as an administrative assistant in charge of bookkeeping.

The alleged thefts were brought to the attention of police two months ago by Ronald Fuchs, the association manager, who told investigators that an audit of the group's books had turned up discrepancies.

Fuchs and Hellmuth said the association found more than 100 instances where the employee spent association money on personal expenses.

In some instances, they told police, she charged for fuel on days she didn't work or claimed to have purchased diesel fuel from stations that did not sell it. She also paid a drilling company to do work on the well at her home, according to the police report on the case.

Thue said the gasoline purchases were for association vehicles and that the numerous meals she charged were for staff lunches. He said he had no knowledge of the well work allegedly done at her home.

Herón Márquez Estrada • 612-673-4280