The betrayal and broken friendship stemming from the theft of money fundraised for Discovery Passage school hurts more than the stolen money, say members who sat on the parent council with the accused.
“They were close friends of ours for years,” said one Parent Advisory Council (PAC) member who asked not to be named. “More than the money, it was about the trust and betrayal. It definitely destroyed us as a PAC.”
Neil and Jessica Taylor are both charged with one count each of fraud over $5,000 and one count of theft over $5,000.
The Taylors were charged in May of embezzling money from the PAC between Dec. 1, 2010 and Jan. 31, 2012 while the parent group was mounting an aggressive fundraising campaign for a new playground after the school district took the school’s old playground down due to safety concerns.
Jessica served as treasurer of the Parent Advisory Council during winter 2011 and took over the position of chair in the 2011/12 school year, before vacating the position in early 2012. Neil served as treasurer of the council during the 2011/12 school year.
Former PAC member Gene Belanko said the parent group became suspicious something was wrong when the Taylors refused to provide income statements to the council.
“They continually refused for six months to a year and we finally told them we have to legally balance the books, they have to be available,” Belanko said. “When they finally produced the statements, the balance was significantly less than the cash that was brought in. It was less than half of what should have been in there. We did some really significant fundraisers.
“We did a beer and burger night which raised over $3,000, and we held a school carnival and did $1,300.”
Belanko said those figures never showed up on the books, neither did the thousands of dollars raised by a Discovery Passage student through the Great Walk from Tahsis to Gold River.
Belanko said he estimates more than $10,000 went missing from the PAC.
With a big chunk of money missing, it was an uphill battle for the small PAC which was trying to purchase a playground for the school. But good news came shortly after
In June, the parent group received a $50,000 grant from the province and the PAC was able to buy a new plyground..
- February 2011- Discovery Passage’s playground is torn down and Jessica Taylor approaches the Mirror to drum up support for a fundraising campaign.
- January 2012- Campbell River RCMP begin an investigation into the missing PAC funds after being approached by members of the parent council.
- November 9, 2012- The Taylors are charged with one count each of theft over $5,000 and fraud over $5,000.
- January 14, 2013- The Taylors make their first court appearance and plead not guilty to all charges and elect to go to trial before a judge alone.
- July 31, 2013- Neil Taylor changes his not guilty plea and pleads guilty to theft over $5,000 .