by Sheila Reynolds
Former Surrey school official Robert Chadwick should be sentenced to between 18 months and two years for diverting school district funds into personal bank accounts, say Crown prosecutors.
Chadwick pleaded guilty to one count of breach of trust Friday afternoon in Surrey Provincial Court.
The former associate superintendent had originally also been charged with theft over $5,000 and fraud over $5,000, as had his wife, Barbara Chadwick. But both Robert and Barbara’s fraud and theft charges were stayed in court Friday.
Wearing a grey shirt and dark suit jacket, Robert Chadwick, 63, didn’t speak in court, except to enter his guilty plea before Judge James Donald Bahen. Barbara was not present.
Lawyers for both sides entered an agreed statement of facts.
The charges against the Chadwicks arose with regard to money handled by Robert when he was managing an international program offered through the Surrey School District in conjunction with San Diego State University (SDU).
The court heard Friday that between 1999 and 2003, Chadwick negotiated a number of contracts with payments coming from SDU in lump sums to cover things such as facility rental, teacher wages and computer use.
However, said Crown prosecutor Stephen Cooke, eight cheques worth more than $416,000 were deposited into an external, unaudited account called “SDU Fund” set up by Chadwick.
The account, said Cooke, was used without the knowledge of the school district or senior administrators.
“Surrey School District’s funds were put at risk,” said Cooke.
Still, he said, it was found most of the money had been used in legitimate ways, except for nearly $44,000, which went to the Chadwicks’ personal accounts.
Not ensuring all the money from SDU went to the school district were “contrary to his role as associate superintendent,” Cooke said.
Defence lawyer Richard Rhodes read numerous letters, some dating back more than two decades, from various former co-workers and associates that he said spoke to the integrity, dedication and professionalism displayed by Robert Chadwick over the years.
Rhodes, who asked that the judge settle on a conditional sentence shorter than 18 months requested by the Crown, said Chadwick’s life has already been significantly impacted by the charges.
The matter has left a scar on his otherwise “wonderful looking professional resumé” and he was forced to resign from the field of education earlier than he would have, said Rhodes. As well, Chadwick’s longtime passion for horse racing has been curtailed as his licence was suspended by the B.C. Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch. He also won’t be able to travel internationally with a criminal record.
Rhodes said although it was “crazy” for Chadwick to open the separate, unaudited bank account, it was simply “stupidity” and wasn’t planned, but “just happened.”
Rhodes said at the end of the day, Chadwick can’t account for the $43,000, so must tell the world he’s sorry and apologize.
Robert Chadwick worked for the Surrey School District from 1988 to 2006 before resigning. He is also under investigation by the B.C. College of Teachers. Barbara was an administrative assistant and not required to be certified by the professional organization so is not subject to a similar investigation.
A civil lawsuit launched by the school district was settled out of court in March, with the Surrey Board of Education agreeing to dismiss the suit in exchange for $78,000 from the Chadwicks.