Charlie Swindells, the board president for 1000 Friends of Oregon, sent an unwelcome holiday message [PDF] to supporters of the venerable land-use group earlier this month.

“Last month,” Swindells wrote in a letter dated Nov. 30 but mailed two weeks later, “we discovered that a former staff member betrayed our trust and took money from our organization. Our financial reports were altered so even the due diligence of the Board and directors did not reveal the theft until now.”

Swindells did not name the former employee in his letter, nor did he disclose how much money is missing. He also said the organization is not in financial jeopardy because it has an endowment and reserve funds. Swindells, who didn’t immediately return a call from WW, did not say in his letter how much is in 1000 Friends’ endowment (1000 Friends Executive Director Jason Miner was also unavailable for comment).

“We have filed a police report and are cooperating fully with law enforcement authorities and are aggressively pursuing restitution,” Swindells wrote in his letter. “Fortunately, we have an insurance policy and have filed a claim.”

Tax returns most recently filed by 1000 Friends show the non-profit had a budget of about $1.2 million for tax year 2009. It also had a separate foundation that listed assets of about $2 million.

The Portland Police Bureau rejected WW’s public records request for a copy of the 1000 Friends police report, citing an ongoing criminal investigation.

Three sources say the person under investigation is Lori Meadows, a former development director at 1000 Friends. Meadows could not be reached for comment