Old Perlican Lions learn from experience
Club moving forward after embezzlement case settled
A decision by the Baccalieu Lions Club in Old Perlican to pursue embezzlement charges against a former longtime member was not about getting its money back.
It was about gaining back trust of the public.
In August, guilty pleas were entered on behalf of former Lion Joseph Rice on one count of theft over $5,000.
As a result, the 69-year-old Rice was given four months house arrest and ordered to pay back restitution. That amount is unknown.
The charges date back to February 2014. Efforts were made to retrieve the money before involving the authorities, but they were unsuccessful.
“We were more concerned with the guilty plea and not the money,” said club treasurer Dave Foote. “The plea was important.”
For the Baccalieu club, the plea had a stronger message to the people who support the club. “It is public’s money,” said Foote. The exact amount of money taken is not known, but it is believed to be a substantial amount of money.
Having a former member dipping into a service club’s coffers might serve as the death knell for that club. It can cause members to fragment under the stress of dealing with unpaid bills and a growing distrust in the populace.
Not the Old Perlican club, however. It had the opposite affect.
“It galvanized the club,” said past president Carl Hopkins.
While some members chipped in their own money to help cover costs, others helped in different ways. They doubled their efforts in the community and pushed to continue their usual work.
The Old Perlican-based club is widely regarded as one of the strongest service clubs in eastern Newfoundland, having donated some $350,000 to charity since it was founded 26 years ago.
Since the incident, the Baccalieu Lions Club has donated some $50,000 to community groups in the region.
“It was a team effort,” said Foote. “We kept up our standards.”
“There was a love for the club,” added Hopkins.
It has been a learning experience for the club, according to Foote.
Every expense is accounted for and every nickel is tracked. Financial statements are available to any of the 35 members at any meeting. That is something they struggled with in the past.
“We’re more detailed, more careful,” said Foote.
In a lengthy discussion with The Compass, Foote and Hopkins noted the club made a push to become more accountable to the public it serves.
As a result of this experience, members of the club have been asked to speak at provincial conferences about their ordeal and how they continued to push forward.
“Since then, there have been two or three clubs make similar moves,” said Hopkins.
The Old Perlican club is, at present, stronger than ever.
While there have been members lost through death or circumstance, the club has added a dozen new members and is looking at four new arrivals in the New Year. That would push the club’s roster to 39 members.
A project is underway at the Old Perlican building to make its bathrooms more accessible to people with disabilities.
“We’ve recovered and its like day and night,” said Hopkins.
The Bacclaieu Lions Club has recovered following an incident that saw a former club member steal thousands of dollars from it.