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October 26, 2000 $196,000 embezzled from Student Union



Charges will likely be laid against a Concordia Student Union employee in the theft of $196,000 from the CSU.

The loss represents nearly one-third of the $625,000 in fees that are collected by the university from students and remitted to the CSU as their main source of income for student associations, clubs and other activities. The CSU operates independently of the university, hiring its own staff and keeping its own books.

Suspicions were aroused in the late summer. A forensic accountant was hired to go over the case, and on October 4, when CSU president Rob Green was told that an employee had been cashing unauthorized cheques, the suspect was fired.

Green said in an e-mail interview that changes must be made to the CSU’s financial controls. In the wake of this crisis, the union’s signing authority has been transferred on an interim basis to CSU general manager Rick Stom and council chair Patrice Blais. Control will be decentralized to ensure checks and balances, and a controller will be hired.

The size of the theft has raised questions about how many people were involved, but Green said the forensic accountant “is still quite certain that there is only one suspect.”

Accreditation approved

The theft was announced by the CSU just after the completion of a campaign to have the CSU accredited by the provincial government. Voting was high in the referendum, held October 10 to 13, thanks to a determined effort by electoral officers that included taking polls into the classroom, and accreditation was approved by 66 per cent.

Accreditation will mean that the CSU is the only association representing all undergraduate and independent students. It was opposed by the engineering and commerce students’ associations, ECA and CASA, which broke off from the main association some years ago and provide other services to their constituencies.

However, CASA president Rabih Sebaaly takes the view that bringing all students fully into the CSU may provide an opportunity to make changes.

When Green was asked if, as student union president, he feels in any way responsible for the crisis, he replied, “There are many that could be blamed in this affair, myself, the university, the campus media, [CSU] council, staff, and the bank included, but in my mind there is only one person who is responsible and that is the person who perpetrated the crime.”

- Barbara Black