Ottawa police have laid charges against former Rockcliffe Park school council treasurer Mark MacDonald in connection with more than $75,000 that went missing from the school council’s bank account earlier this year.
Const. Marc Soucy confirmed on Nov. 2 that MacDonald has been charged with fraud over $5,000, having possession of money over $5,000 knowing it had been obtained by crime and obtaining funds under false pretenses.
When first discovered, the missing $76,651 threatened the operation of a number of council-run programs including milk and pizza money, school trips and an after-school homework club.
Police were first contacted by the council about the missing money in early March, but at that time investigators told the council there was not enough evidence to look into the matter further. It was not until late March that police were contacted for the second time by the council and investigation was initiated.
The missing funds were brought to light when Bettye Hyde, the provider of the after-school daycare program, notified parents the program had not been paid since December 2011 and there was an outstanding balance of $35,000.
The council’s board of directors had also noticed irregularities as early as February, when it was notified by a pizza supplier that payment had not been made. The council contacted MacDonald about the concern and the matter was soon cleared.
A special council board meeting was subsequently held in March to discuss the daycare’s payment issues. MacDonald was invited, but did not attend. After serving as treasurer since 2006, he was relieved of that position in April.
Unlike some school councils in the city, the Rockcliffe Park council had its own bank accounts as opposed to using accounts maintained by the school itself.
Following the incident, the council voted to move its money into a school board account. The council’s treasurer will work alongside the school administrators and will make monthly reports at school council meetings.
At a meeting of the council’s board of directors on Oct. 9, a new treasurer was named along with a slate of other new directors, including a new chairman, Craig Nakamoto.
“I actually had nominated myself for treasurer because I knew that nobody had taken that position,” he said. “It turned out that someone else had already been nominated for treasurer so they asked if I would take the role of chair and after some consideration I agreed. I am very excited about the role and I have been enjoying it a lot.”
As far as the police investigation is concerned, the new chairman said it is out of the board’s hands.
“The police are investigating and they will decide if they want to charge anyone,” Nakamoto said. “I do not know the level of effort that they have made in this investigation, but I do understand that it is a very unfortunate and sad situation for all of those involved.”
He said it is important now to move forward.
“I believe that we do have some work to do in order to re-establish trust with the parents,” Nakamoto said.
The board will be addressing its concerns about trust at its next board meeting on Nov. 13. Nakamoto did confirm all council funds are now managed through school bank accounts and cheques will be issued from the school directly and the council members do not have signing authority.