Incumbent Chilliwack provincial election candidate John Martin’s former constituency assistant pleaded guilty in provincial court on Tuesday to stealing thousands of dollars from the constituency office.
Desmond Michael Devnich was with his lawyer Martin Finch appearing by telephone in courtroom 204 on Oct. 6, 2020 to plead guilty to two counts of breach of trust by a public officer.
In reading the charges to Devnich, Judge Dawn Boblin said the first breach of trust involved email transferring funds from constituency bank accounts between July 2013 and February 2017. The second breach of trust involved Devnich’s unauthorized use of a constituency credit card between September 2013 and November 2015.
In accepting his plea, the Boblin asked Devnich if he understood the consequences of pleading guilty, and if he was making the plea voluntarily.
“I’m entering these pleas independently,” the 30-year-old told the court.
Devnich was also charged with overlapping counts of fraud over $5,000, charges that were dropped after he entered the guilty pleas.
Under section 122 of the criminal code, breach of trust by a public officer is an indictable offence a conviction for which comes with a term of imprisonment up to five years.
Martin is the BC Liberal incumbent candidate for the Oct. 24 provincial election, having served as MLA for the riding of Chilliwack since 2013.
In March 2017, Martin told reporters in Victoria that the funds were discovered missing during an implementation of a new system. He said he met with the employee who admitted he had misappropriated the funds, and he was fired.
“I’m profoundly disappointed in what has happened as I believe we have an obligation to wisely manage taxpayer money,” Martin told the Progress via telephone from Victoria in 2017.
Prior to that, but connected to the new system, Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming similarly discovered money missing from his constituency office. Fleming’s constituency assistant pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 in October 2016.
Special Prosecutor Robin McFee approved the charges to Devnich in September 2019, more than two years after he was fired by Martin.
The details of the case have not yet come out in court, but there are allegations that the amount of money allegedly stolen is substantially higher than the $5,000 threshold for the charges he faces.
The case is next in court on Oct. 13 to fix a date for a sentencing hearing.
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