Yarmouth Boys and Girls Club. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
For years the Yarmouth Boys and Girls Club had to deal with the impact of a major theft by one of its employees. On July 4, a Yarmouth woman was sentenced in Supreme Court for the theft and has been ordered to make restitution to the club in the amount of $43,436.99.
But while the sentencing has concluded, the one thing the Boys and Girls Club, as well as the court, still has no clear understanding of is the motive behind the theft as there’s never been any explanation provided. The accused had denied responsibility at trial.
Wendi Marie Kleiner-d’Eon, who was sentenced on Friday, was a bookkeeper for the organization when the money went missing. She was previously convicted following a two-day trial, in which the Crown argued that circumstantially the only reasonable conclusion that could be arrived at, based on the evidence, was that it was the accused who had taken the money as she was the person solely responsible for depositing it. The money was never deposited.
In addition to the restitution order, Kleiner-d’Eon received an 18-month conditional sentence, which is served in the community as opposed to in jail. For the first eight months she will be under house arrest. In the following five months she will have to abide by a curfew and for the remainder of the conditional sentence she will be bound by the conditions set out by the court. She has also been ordered to perform 100 hours of community service by January 2016 and is to have no contact with the Boys and Girls Club or any of its activities.
After the conditional sentence she will be under a 12-month probation order.
According to the charge before the court the theft occurred during 2009 and 2010. Because the organization trusted its employee, at the time the board of directors could never fully understand why it was in the financially situation it was in – basically always in the hole. When a substantial amount of money raised through a Monte Carlo fundraising event was not deposited in January 2010, it raised red flags.
It was eventually discovered that while money that had gone missing over a period of time was accounted for in receipt books, it was never deposited in the organization’s accounts. The impact was so profound that the board of directors was faced with the decision of closing the club or significantly reducing its budget and services.
The club is a not-for-profit organization that has existed for almost 50 years and provides care and activities to babies, toddlers, preschoolers and other youth. To avoid closure the organization remortgaged its Bond Street property, which was disheartening since at the time the existing mortgage was to be paid off in five years.
A victim impact statement was presented at sentencing. It noted that the club had to increase fees charged to parents, even though this would create hardship for many families. The club reduced staff to the minimum levels required by its provincial Child Care license. Until staffing could be brought up, the club had to refuse acceptance of babies, toddlers and preschoolers, explained Ann Jones, chair of the Yarmouth Boys and Girls Club. “We had to lay off staff. Whenever a person loses their job their family suffers and our economy suffers. The staff that remained had to work harder. We are very proud of how our staff has responded.”
The club had to reduce and defer maintenance and increase fundraising efforts. The summer camp program was also impacted.
“We felt betrayed by a person we trusted,” Jones said in the impact statement, adding that after the theft the Boys and Girls Club also lost some of the trust of agencies that provide funding to it.
“The Boys and Girls Club of Yarmouth has worked hard for the last three years to overcome the impact of this theft. The board of directors, our families, community and our staff joined together and we are now once again on solid financial footing,” stated Jones. “This has not been easy and it was totally unnecessary . . . This money belonged to the children, to be spent to provide a safe place. We would like this money recovered so it can be used for whom it was intended – our children.”
Following the court session Jones said she felt the sentence was fair.