Whanganui principal struck off for spending nearly $30,000 on school credit card

  • 05/06/2024
The principal's behaviour amounted to "serious misconduct", the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal says.
The principal's behaviour amounted to "serious misconduct", the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal says. Photo credit: Getty Images

A Whanganui principal has been struck off after she was found to have racked up nearly $30,000 in unapproved purchases on a school credit card.  

The New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal said the principal's behaviour amounted to "serious misconduct" after she used the Visa card to withdraw cash which she used for personal purposes.  

Between 2017 and 2019, the woman - who was the principal of a Kura in Whanganui - made 117 unauthorised transactions totalling $29,549.  

A recently released Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal finding said the principal made withdrawals at multiple venues including restaurants, a pub and SkyCity casino in Auckland. 

She "used some of the cash withdrawn using the Visa card for personal purposes, unrelated to the Kura. She also used some of the funds to pay advanced wages and salary to Kura staff, which was not the correct process by which staff were to be paid", the finding said.  

Concerns were raised about the unauthorised withdrawals by a chartered accountant in early 2019 after they carried out an audit for the 2017 financial year.  

The Board of Trustees subsequently formed a sub-committee to investigate the spending.  

According to the findings, the principal "went on certified medical sick leave from the Kura" in March of that year before resigning in April.  

The principal said she had "suffered a mental breakdown because of the stress and pressure placed on her in the lead-up to her conduct, which led to her actions with respect to the Visa card", according to the report.  

"She provided a timeline of events leading up to her resignation, which included a brief reference to the repayment of the money towards the end of her time as principal, but otherwise did not address the Visa card withdrawals and transactions in detail. She denied ever intending to steal from or defraud the Kura and said that, whenever she used school funds, she would inform others, often the school secretary," the report said.  

"She said she had formally apologised to the Board and made sure all the funds were repaid immediately after the concerns were raised.  

"The tribunal was satisfied and found that the alleged acts in the charge were proved, on the evidence received." 

According to the tribunal, it had "no difficulty" determining that serious misconduct had taken place.  

"The appropriate starting point was cancellation of registration," the decision said.  

It added the principal's conduct was "grave" and "deliberately dishonest".  

The tribunal acknowledged the principal had taken rehabilitative steps and paid back $25,000 by September 2019.  

"In the end, the tribunal considered that the least restrictive penalty which meets the seriousness of the case and discharges the tribunal's obligation to the public and the teaching profession is a censure... and the cancellation of her registration as a teacher."  

She was ordered to pay costs of $4812 to the Complaints Authority Council and $582 to the Teaching Council.