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Sacked school staff member admits theft

Last updated 05:00 18/04/2011
PHIL REID/Dominion Post
TRUSTED POSITION: David Don, who has been dismissed from his job as St Patrick's College's executive officer of St Patrick's College, told The Dominion Post outside his home that he had no good reason to take the money.

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A senior staff member has confessed to stealing large sums of money from a Wellington school.

David Don, who, as executive officer of St Patrick's College, Wellington, was in charge of the school's accounts, says he deeply regrets what he has done and will try to repay all the money – as soon as he finds another job.

When questioned by The Dominion Post about why the school had dismissed him, he accepted he had used school funds for unauthorised purposes.

Mr Don said there were no good reasons for taking the money and he fully accepted the consequences of his actions.

"I deeply regret it, I'm sorry and I will endeavour to repay all the money as soon as possible."

A police investigation is under way. Mr Don, a chartered accountant who was employed at the school for five years, said he had not yet been notified of the investigation, but would fully co-operate with police, as well as the school.

He said the amount of money he had taken was "significant", but neither he nor the school would confirm a figure. The school said discrepancies in the order of tens of thousands of dollars were uncovered a couple of weeks ago, after routine Education Ministry audits of the 2010 accounts.

Mr Don was dismissed and a letter was sent to parents explaining why. Parents who contacted The Dominion Post voiced concerns that the school's fundraising had been jeopardised, but the school said that money was kept separately and had not been taken.

St Patrick's board of trustees chairman Chris McCarthy said the school was "deeply concerned" by what had happened. "It's a really difficult time for us."

The school was now going through all records, including previous years, to "establish the full extent of what's occurred", he said. It was not clear exactly how much had been taken and the figure "changes all the time".

"There's obviously a mixture of entirely legitimate payments and we need to establish what is legitimate and what is not. The person who was dismissed was there for a number of years, so being prudent, we need to have a look at everything."

They would look at employment processes as a result of what had happened. "I'm sure that we will review everything."

Mr Don had been trusted by the school. "A chartered accountant certainly has professional obligations well beyond an ordinary member of the public."

Acting Rector Wayne Mills said the school had had no concerns about Mr Don before the audit and all school staff were subject to a police check.

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"He had a good working relationship with everyone here, there's some pretty shocked people. It's been a shock for everyone and a difficult thing to deal with."

Such a situation could happen at any school and Mr Mills said he had had positive feedback from parents about the school's handling of it. "We have got nothing to hide."

All school programmes and activities would go ahead and the college's accounts were financially sound.

The ministry's central south regional manager, Anne Devonshire, said the ministry was in discussions with the school and was waiting for its 2010 audit report.

It was the only case in the region of which it had been notified last year.

A police spokeswoman said a verbal complaint had been received, but police were waiting on a written complaint before taking action.

- The Dominion Post

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