A Central Saanich mother of two who stole $45,000 from Keating Elementary’s parent advisory council over a two-year period has been spared jail.
On Monday, Tanya Larayne Adam, the 44-year-old former treasurer of the Keating Home and School Association, received a suspended sentence and three years of probation for stealing the money, intended in part for a new school playground.
Victoria provincial court Judge Sue Wishart placed Adam on conditions that prevent her from volunteering at Keating Elementary or going to the school unless her child is involved in an activity. She ordered Adam to perform 120 hours of community service before March 31, 2018, as a way to pay back the community.
Adam must also participate in a victim-offender reconciliation program during the next three years, if members of the association want to sit down with her and talk about what happened.
“Their sense of betrayal is very hard to overcome because they trusted you … I can’t force them to participate, but it’s been the experience of everyone in the justice community that this type of interaction is extremely beneficial in helping people move on,” said Wishart.
Crown prosecutor Joselyn Byrne, who had been seeking a jail sentence for Adam, told the judge she believed there was “no appetite” for such a sit-down.
Outside court, Tricia Oates, vice-president of the association, confirmed she was not interested in reconciliation.
“I’m glad it’s over,” said Oates. “I think she got off lightly. But I’m happy for her kids and happy that we got a portion of the money back.”
In June, Adam pleaded guilty to theft over $5,000 from June 2013 and July 2015. Her sentencing was delayed to allow her to make full restitution.
The court heard that Adam stole the money by writing cheques to herself.
She either forged the second signature required on the cheque or obtained the second signature by providing what appeared to be a legitimate explanation for the expense. Although the theft was discovered when a cheque bounced, Adam made up a phony bank statement, typing up the fraudulent document to persuade people everything was fine.
“The biggest question in cases like this is why,” said Wishart. “Why steal money when she and her husband were both working and not in any significant debt?”
Defence lawyer Dale Marshall told the sentencing hearing last week that the theft arose from financial tension in Adam’s marriage. She and her husband had separate bank accounts; he paid the mortgage and she paid all other expenses. Over time, her share of expenses exceeded the mortgage payments, but her husband would not agree to change their arrangement. She took money from the association, but always intended to pay it back, he said.
Wishart said the impact on victims in such cases is often greater than in incidents where a stranger steals the money because of the sense of betrayal. “Other members of the association knew and trusted Miss Adam,” she said. “She was a fellow parent and the money was to benefit the children of the school.”
Victim-impact statements provided by the school principal and the vice-president of the association express that sense of betrayal and outline the significant amount of time spent trying to sort out the association’s finances after the theft was discovered, said Wishart.
However, the judge noted that Adam is remorseful and has taken responsibility for her actions. She has also suffered significant consequences, Wishart said, including the impact on her children, the loss of two jobs, her loss of standing in the school community and the fact that the case received media attention.
The three-year probation order ensures Adam will have access to counselling.
Adam is prohibited from taking part in any activities where she has access to money, bank accounts, credit card or financial information of a person or corporation and she must inform any potential employers of her sentence and conditions.