A former secretary at Northeast Kings Education Centre has been sentenced for stealing money from the school.
Jacqueline Elizabeth Rhynard, 53, of Coldbrook, admitted to taking money from the school between March 2009 and January 2013. She was charged last May. Rhynard initially plead not guilty, but changed her plea in April.
Rhynard admitted what she’d done to the school principal because she “couldn’t continue hiding what she had done,” said defence attorney Curtis Palmer.
“It’s a tragic situation and very unique in that Rhynard came forward.”
Rhynard declined to say anything when given the opportunity at her sentencing hearing on June 25. Judge Claudine MacDonald handed Rhynard a two-year conditional sentence order with daily curfew for the first 12 months, except for July 19 and 20 to allow her to attend her son’s wedding. As part of the conditional sentence, Rhynard must pay $5,000 in restitution to the school.
Rhynard was also sentenced to two years of probation following the conditional sentence, including another $5,000 in restitution. The court has imposed a standalone restitution order for $75,390.43 for the remainder of the $85,390.43 that went missing.
Audit led to investigation
An Annapolis Valley Regional School Board audit of finances at the school completed last March showed financial irregularities. The Kings District RCMP was called to investigate and determined the thefts occurred over a four-year period.
Rhynard’s employment at the school was terminated. She was employed by the school board for 12 years and also worked as a bookkeeper for the Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association.
Crown Daniel Rideout said Rhynard handled money in her position as school secretary. She would take small amounts at first and pay them back on payday. However, the amounts got larger and Rhynard couldn’t pay it back.
She estimated that she had taken between $10,000 and $20,000, using the cafeteria account to hide the missing funds. She used the money to pay personal bills and household expenses. Rideout said Rhynard didn’t take more than $500 at any given time.
The court also heard that Rhynard recommended cashing in four of the school’s Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GIC) to provide cash flow.
Pre-sentence report ‘positive’
Rideout described Rhynard’s pre-sentence report as “positive.” People who knew Rhynard said they were “shocked” by what had happened and that it was “out of character.” He said she has no previous record and would be a suitable candidate for community supervision.
However, he said the offence was a breach of trust and there were many victims. It wasn’t a “one-off” and there was premeditation.
MacDonald said the “abuse of trust” went on for several years and involved a significant amount of money.
“This wasn’t something that was one impulsive act. That would be bad enough,” MacDonald said.
She said Rhynard’s pre-sentence report was “excellent” and Rhynard is remorseful. MacDonald said if it weren’t for Rhynard coming forward, the problem wouldn’t have come to light as soon as it did.
“Everyone who knows you can’t get over this,” MacDonald told Rhynard.