The Chronicle Herald (Provincial)

Former mess manager found guilty of theft


SYDNEY — The former manager of the Sydney Garrison messes is now scheduled to be sentenced in September after being found guilty Friday of stealing more than $5,000 from the operation.

David Joseph Mullins, 68, of Smith Street, New Waterford, will be sentenced Sept. 29 on a single count of theft. A second charge of fraud was stayed by provincial court Judge Peter Ross. The offence occurred between July 2014 and September 2016.

After hearing evidence in the case during a 10-day trial — held at various times between Sept. 21, 2020 and May 11, 2021 — Ross concluded that the amount involved was $28,000.

In his decision, Ross said that given the strong circumstan­tial evidence from a forensic accounting report, the evidence of certain actions and behaviours of the accused and credibilit­y concerns with the evidence of the accused, he was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of his guilt.

Prosecutor Alex Keaveny argued there was compelling circumstan­tial evidence of theft from observed inventory discrepanc­ies along with evidence of theft from unofficial receipts and cash found in the possession of the accused.

Defence lawyer Christophe­r Conohan suggested lax accounting procedures and policies were to blame for the loss.

There are three messes at the Sydney Garrison and Mullins managed all three.

Such facilities are operated by the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services — often referred to as Nonpublic Funds. The NPF is funded by membership­s and revenue from operations — a bar and facility rentals — as opposed to public money.

Mullins was hired as manager in the summer of 2014 after a 25-year career in the federal public service (public works) followed by a stint in the provincial civil service (labour standards).

All financial reporting from the messes was filed to a NPF regional accounting manager located in Halifax.

As Ross noted in his decision, all revenues generated by mess operations across Atlantic Canada were deposited into a single bank account.

“This is less than ideal from an accounting perspectiv­e. It removes one layer of verificati­on and reconcilia­tion which would be available if Sydney operations had their own dedicated bank account.”

Mullins testified during the trial that accounting procedures at NPF were unreliable at the time of his hire and didn't improve much during his time as manager. He testified there were constant problems with cash registers and fridges.

During the trial, a bartender testified to being paid in cash and being advised by Mullins not to tell anyone.

Ross said Mullins was aware of a policy that it was not permitted to pay bartenders in cash as all wages had to be paid by NPF, which could then track such payments for tax purposes.

“It is clear to me,” said Ross, “that the accused deliberate­ly hid his practice from NPF.”

As of September 2016, revenues from the Sydney operations had shrunk by $50,000 and officials from NPF came to Sydney, seized various documents from Mullins along with his computer and relieved him of his responsibi­lities.

It was during a search of the office that officials found $2,800 in cash stashed away in a locked filing cabinet.

Mullins said the money was from a previous event that had not yet been deposited. There was no documentat­ion with the cash indicating the event or other informatio­n and there was no cash register receipt or daily sales report to cover off such an amount.

“The absence of documentat­ion suggests strongly that the accused had no intention of ever creating such,” said Ross, in his decision.

There was also evidence of an unofficial receipt book being used by Mullins but as Ross pointed out in his decision, even Mullins was unable to tell who and what some of the receipts were for and even what dates they were issued.

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