Former political constituency assistant handed 2 year conditional sentence

Former political constituency assistant handed 2 year conditional sentence

Victoria Swan-Lake MLA Rob Fleming's former constituency assistant has been sentenced to 18 months house arrest as part of a two- year conditional sentence. 

Marni Offman stole $120,420.61 over a more than six year period while working in Fleming's constituency office. 

Victoria provincial court Judge Ernie Quantz said Offman avoided being sent to jail in part because she showed "authentic remorse" and lived with the "pain of internal turmoil."

Quantz also said Offman was a low risk to reoffend.

Quantz says Offman does not have the financial means to pay back the money she has stolen but as part of the sentence made a restitution order that the $120,420.61 must be paid back over time to the Legislative Assembly.

Sense of 'betrayal'

Fleming submitted a victim impact statement that was read during sentencing. After Offman's court appearance Fleming said he was relieved it was over.

"This is a serious offence. I have felt a sense of betrayal from a long time employee who stole public funds from my office and, by extension, my constituents and the province of British Columbia," said Fleming. "It's my hope this debt will be repaid."

Offman was fired from Fleming's office in 2015, a matter unrelated to the theft. At that point, staff discovered no records, receipts or office invoices. 

An investigation found Offman altered nearly 200 cheques to increase their value before putting them into her bank account.

Changes on the way

The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Craig James, also submitted a victim impact statement.

In a news release sent out shortly following Offman's sentence, James outlined what the Legislative Assembly is doing to improve accounting practices at constituency offices.

"On Dec. 1, 2016, the Legislative Assembly Management Committee approved a centralized accounting system for constituency office expenses for the new 41st Parliament," read the statement. 

"The new system will be implemented in phases, beginning in May 2017, with full implementation by April 2018.

"Under this model, members will continue to be responsible for their constituency office spending decisions and budgets, but the accounting for all constituency offices will be done by a central office within the Legislative Assembly."