Fraud investigation at Dalhousie Faculty Association

Police investigation launched after receiving complaint of missing funds at the Dalhousie Faculty Association

A cancelled cheque began an investigation into misappropriated funds at the Dalhousie Faculty Association. Photo: Krista Armstrong

Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP are investigating fraud after money went missing from Dalhousie's Faculty Association.

Terry Mitchell, president of the Dalhousie Faculty Association, says a staff member discovered the missing funds in July 2009.

A cheque had been cancelled in somebody's name, which Mitchell says is not something that the association, with a direct deposit banking system, would typically do.

When the person involved was questioned, Mitchell says the answer given was "unreasonable." Mitchell asked the accountant for the association to do a preliminary check through their accounts. That's when they realized more money was missing.

Police and members of the executive cannot confirm the amount taken due to the ongoing investigation. However, Frank Magazine reports the amount taken as "anywhere from $138,000 to $150,000" from 2006 to 2009.

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Headquarters for the Dalhousie Faculty Association, which began in 1951 and currently has close to 900 members. Photo: Krista Armstrong

After the offender was identified by the association, Mitchell says the person was suspended without pay and given an opportunity to repay the money. She left the organization in the summer and the association has since hired someone new.

Brian Palmeter, representative for the Halifax Regional Police, could only confirm that there is an investigation. He says the police department received the complaint via phone call on Oct. 8.

Right now officers are talking to witnesses, getting statements and gathering paper documents such as bank statements, which he says can take a lot of time.

He wasn't able to speculate how long the investigation would take but says he "wouldn't be surprised if this went into the next year."

He says that sometimes throughout the course of a fraud investigation, the situation will evolve into something more than what it first appears.

He says he doesn't think this is the case here.

Because they don't yet know the entire scope of the situation, Palmeter couldn't speculate on the charges. Mitchell says the association will not be filing any lawsuits.

Mitchell says the association members, which she estimates at "roughly 876" people from all faculties except clinical dentists and medical professionals, have been kept well informed of the situation.

Three emails have gone out to members - one each in August, September and October - to inform and update them on the situation.

The October email was sent out in advance of an Oct. 20 general meeting and included the final copy of the auditor's report.

At the meeting, Mitchell says she "laid it on the line," explaining to attendees how the fraud was discovered, how the money had been regained and what the association has done to improve their systems.

She says it gave attendees an opportunity to ask questions.

Both Mitchell and Carrie Wilson, president-elect for the association, declined to say how many people attended.

When asked what new measures have been taken, Mitchell says they have added "a lot more checks and balances in our financial procedures." She declined to elaborate.

The association is following through with the security measures the accountant has recommended. "The executive wouldn't have stood for it if I hadn't," she says.

Locks and wiring at the office has been changed. She compared the procedure to that which you'd follow after losing a purse.

Mitchell says that she received few comments from faculty following the emails. She says the comments she did receive were positive and that members felt confident that the executive was dealing with the situation the best way they could.

This isn't to say that the executive isn't unhappy about what's happened.

Wilson says "we are grappling with somebody who took advantage of the organization." She says it is regrettable but the association is moving forward.

 

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