TWENTYNINE PALMS — The Twentynine Palms Public Cemetery District board of directors voted unanimously in special session Friday, Jan.10, to hire Emily Helm as a part-time, interim                               manager.

Helm replaces Stacey Lee, who faces charges she embezzled more than $17,000 from the cemetery district. She is accused of using the cemetery’s credit and debit card, without authorization, to buy items and make ATM withdrawals.

Helm, a retired Marine who has lived in Twentynine Palms since 1984, also works part-time for Copper Mountain College.

She came to the Morongo Basin when she was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in 1984. She left the Marines in 1985 but continued to serve as a Marine spouse.

While in the Marines, she served as a communications center operator, a position she said no longer exists.

She will be paid $24 an hour, starting Monday, Jan. 13, and said she will continue working part-time for the college.

After accepting the interim position, offered to her by board members following a brief closed session, Helm asked if board members were looking at a time frame for hiring a permanent manager.

“To be honest, we don’t,” board member Rebecca Rinkes replied.

Board members agreed informally to review the situation in six months.

“We should have our feet on the ground,” Rinkes said.

“Let’s see,” Helm said when asked if she might be interested in taking the permanent position.

Helm said she became interested in a position with the district after news of Lee’s arrest broke and she spoke to a cemetery board member.

“I asked if he needed any help,” she said, and was told of the interim position.

“I have all kinds of goals for this place,” she added.

After the meeting, Rinkes said she was glad a very appropriate candidate could be found for the position.

Helm’s resume, she said, includes years of management at businesses in Twentynine Palms.

Board members reacted quickly to Lee’s arrest. They voted 4-0 in special closed session Sunday, Jan. 5, to terminate her employment and have enacted a series of resolutions designed to prevent future cases of embezzlement of district funds.    

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