Community club members feel vindicated after former treasurer pleads guilty to stealing $292K

Members of the St. Andrews Community Club are feeling vindicated after a 53-year-old woman pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Manitoba rural municipality's recreation centre.

"It's mind-blowing how much stress we went through to get this all straightened out," said former club president Kurt Procter.

On Thursday, Procter sat in the Winnipeg Law Courts as the woman, formerly the club treasurer, pleaded guilty to stealing $292,000 from the club. He said he will also be in court to watch the woman's sentencing on July 27.

"I guess you feel vindicated. We went through an awful lot of grief from people in this community to do the right thing," he said.

Procter was president of the club when he received a call from Manitoba Hydro saying the club's power was about to be cut because its bill hadn't been paid in months. Trying to understand how that could happen, the board started looking into their files and found large, irregular payments on credit cards and cheques that could not be accounted for, he said.

The board compiled the information and gave it to the RCMP, which launched an investigation in May 2015.

The situation caused an uproar in the small community just north of Winnipeg. Procter said his family and those of other board members faced backlash on social media throughout the investigation.

"I'll never look at this community quite the same, that's for sure," he said.

Procter stepped down last May after four years in the volunteer position.

The current president Rob Ataman said he hopes that the plea means a start to healing in the community.

"The healing is going to take a long time to happen and to forget about this. It's devastating," he said.

"What does that mean from today forward? Hopefully the board and the community can heal. There are a lot of fantastic people in St. Andrews."

For the recreation centre itself, Ataman said successful fundraising campaigns have led to major improvements over the last few years including a new roof, new bathrooms and new flooring. 

However, he said they could still use the lost funds. The club is working with their insurance to try to recover some of it.

"There are a lot of projects that need to be done so the building can stay there for future residents," he said.