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Guilty plea in Kelowna elementary school PAC theft

More than $20,000 stolen from South Rutland Elementary PAC account

One case involving theft of school parent advisory council funds is solved and another remains unresolved.

Last week, Andrea Blanchard appeared in court to plead guilty to one count of theft over $5,000 related to the investigation of the theft of more than $20,000 from the South Rutland Elementary PAC bank account in 2019.

Blanchard, who was a volunteer on the South Rutland PAC executive, is scheduled to appear again in court on July 27 for a pre-sentence report.

Meanwhile, the investigation into a similar theft the same school year in 2018 of more than $20,000 from the Glenrosa Elementary School PAC in West Kelowna appears to be nearing completion.

West Kelowna RCMP media relations officer Const. Mike Della-Paolera said the investigation has been concluded and recommendations passed on to the BC Prosecution Service in February, but there continues to be some back and forth between the Crown and police on aspects of the investigation.

In both cases, parents and other donors scrambled to replace the missing funds, used to pay for school activities, hot lunches, school supplies and field trips not included in the school district operating budget.

PACs at the time were also urged to review their accounting and money-handling procedures to adequately safeguard against future thefts.

Five years later, Simon Adams, president of the Central Okanagan Parent Advisory Council, says measures have been put in place over the last two years to help individual school PACs avoid the potential of money from being stolen.

Adams said the school district PAC executive has no involvement in the management of funds for individual school PACs.

But the executive has taken three steps to help school PACs to address their own fund management:

• offered clinics on how to modernize or update existing PAC bylaws on governing activities including dual signing requirements for withdrawal or funds or payments by an individual PAC;

• to prevent any misunderstanding, that any financial statements presented to parents also be backed up by bank statements to see both are aligned; and

• for Authorized PAC members to not use online banking or credit cards for any financial transactions.

“We feel following these steps will go a long way to eliminating the possibility of malfeasance,” Adams said.

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Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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