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Dufferin Educator Prosecuted

March 31, 2006 permalink

Here is a follow-up on a crime we reported on two years ago. In this installment, one of the fraudsters attempts to cover her crime with false documents.



Former principal urged to help cover up fraud

A former principal testified his boss tried to pressure him into helping cover up accounting fraud at the Catholic school board.

John Price was testifying for the Crown in the fraud case of former Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board programs superintendent Beverly Williams. She was fired in May 2002 after a forensic audit revealed questionable billing practices within her department. In February 2004, Peel Regional Police charged her with fraud following a 12-month investigation.

During testimony in a Brampton Superior courtroom Thursday, Price said Williams came to him after the audit was launched and on several occasions pleaded for his help.

According to Price, Williams wanted assistance creating documents that would support bills for work the crown alleges she never performed.

"I'm going to jail. I'll lose my house. Everyone around me will be destroyed," Price said Williams pleaded when she asked for his help.

Prior to his retirement, Price worked in the board's programs department as a principal in charge of secondary school reform. He was responsible for overseeing implementation of the provincial government's new high school curriculum.

He was also given the day-to-day management duties of career development projects provided by the school board and funded by the federal government ministry formerly known as Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC).

His duties required him to report to Williams, who headed the programs department.

Price explained HRDC grants covered project operating expenses, but there was always a "residual" amount for the school board.

With approval from board finance officials, he set up a separate entity called Project Place to handle HRDC projects. A separate bank account was also opened so federal government officials could easily track the funding and expenditures.

Created cost centre

Price said he created a cost centre in the accounting books called Research Development and Training (RDT) where the residuals would be kept. That cost centre was used to pay for trips two trips to Scotland as well as pay himself and other Project Place staff for what they considered work above and beyond regular duties, he said.

The court heard it was commonplace for employees to establish consulting firms and bill the school board for extra work through those companies.

Under direction from Williams, Price said he submitted invoices through his wife's company and later through his own firm called Vision Builders.

Williams submitted invoices to Project Place for work done by the Teachers Centre, the court heard. Until the audit was launched, Price said he assumed the Teachers' Centre was the program department's professional development arm. He said he was surprised to discover the Centre and Williams were one in the same.

Williams dropped the bomb, according to Price, during one of several attempts to get his help creating documents that would show auditors she had performed work justifying the invoices. "I asked if (The Teachers' Centre) is even a company and she said no. She said it's just a bank account," Price said.

Between 1998 and 2002, Price estimated Project Place received about $6 million dollars in grants from HRDC and the provincial education ministry.

Williams was one of three former school board employees and a current teacher charged with fraud and bribery involving almost $800,000 in federal grants and school board funds.

The others facing charges have either pleaded guilty or court proceedings are ongoing in their cases.

Price, who retired shortly after Williams was fired, pleaded guilty to fraud and bribery charges in 2004. The 61-year-old did not spend anytime in jail. He received a two-year conditional term, 240 hours community service and had to repay $127,000.

Source: Brampton Guardian