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Ex-Connolly Ranch director charged with identity theft
criminal justice

Ex-Connolly Ranch director charged with identity theft


Editor's Note: Pallas later pleaded no contest to a charge of identity theft and, after he completed a program of community service, the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.

Robert Pallas, a former executive director of Connolly Ranch and the current president of Napa Valley Art Foundation, is being charged with identity theft after he allegedly harassed his successor at the children’s nature center in west Napa.

Pallas, 68, posed as his Connolly Ranch successor, Sarah Pursell, to order magazine subscriptions in her name, according to court records. The woman became inundated with junk mail and periodicals, according to a search warrant.

Napa police also alleged he put Pursell’s phone number on Craigslist postings. The woman then received repeated inquiries for an apartment to rent, firewood and a bicycle for sale, according to the search warrant.

Pallas, who helped organize last month’s Earth Day festivities in downtown Napa, is being charged with identity theft, a felony, according to a complaint filed April 27 in Napa County Superior Court.

A warrant for his arrest was issued the same day. As of Thursday afternoon, Pallas had not been located, according to the Napa County Sheriff’s Office.

Pursell, a former interim executive director and current board member at the Connolly Ranch, reported to police last fall that someone had posted rude comments and a photo of a slaughtered animal on the organization’s Facebook page.

The photo had a caption that read, “‘When Connolly Ranch’s animals go to another farm,’” according to a search warrant.

Connolly Ranch on Browns Valley Road is a teaching facility that serves more than 5,000 children annually, according to the organization’s website. The nonprofit institution holds classes and camps for children and their families.

Efforts by the Register to reach Pallas for comment on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Jennifer Thacher Fotherby, the current executive director at Connolly Ranch Education Center, said Pallas left the organization two years ago.

“This is a law enforcement matter and we will fully cooperate with authorities should the need arise. We continue to focus on our mission of connecting children and families with nature through farm-based education,” Fotherby said in an email.

Napa Valley Art Foundation organizes an annual art show at Yountville Community Center. This year’s show is Aug. 8.

Robert Gantt Steele, an artist based in Marin County who was scheduled to do a painting demonstration during the show, said Thursday he had no idea Pallas had been charged. “I’m kind of in shock,” he said.

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