Ottawa police are investigating the disappearance of about $70,000 from the school council bank account at Rockcliffe Park Public School, which has educated children of politicians including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The school council’s executive posted a message on its website on Tuesday saying that the disappearance of the funds could affect the milk program, a pizza initiative that finances a Grade 6 trip and an after-school homework club.
On Tuesday evening, parents filled the gym at the school, which is in one of Ottawa’s wealthiest neighbourhoods, to get more information about the investigation at a council meeting.
Parents asked how long it had taken the executive to act when they were alerted that money – which parents pay to the council – hadn't been transferred to the after-school homework club and pizza providers. Organizers of the after-school club have said it might have to stop operating without the $35,000 it is owed.
Mike Till has a son and daughter at the school who are both in the after-school program. He called the situation surprising.
“It's very reputable here. We've got the Mark Carneys of the world coming here, Stephen Harper's daughter, lots of lawyers, there's a good financial [and]academic backing in the school,” said Mr. Till. “It's too bad, it's unfortunate.”
The council became aware of “some late payment issues” in February, and when the problem remained unresolved in March, the executive decided to audit the council’s finances and alert the police, sparking an investigation.
“This is a very difficult and charged issue,” council chair Elise Zarkadas said at the meeting. “To say that it is unfortunate is beyond an understatement … the council is made up of parent volunteers, and we are affected as parents.”
Among the council's options are declaring bankruptcy or seeking a loan from the school board, she said.
An Ottawa police spokeswoman said she can’t confirm or deny the force is investigating the council’s finances unless charges are laid.
The council said that the missing money is in “no way” associated with the school’s accounts, administration or staff, Ms. Zarkadas said.
Superintendent Susan MacDonald was at the meeting and said she supported the council. “This is a very challenging situation,” she said. “They've really taken a very thoughtful, very thorough approach.”
Mr. Harper went to a 2006 read-a-thon at the elementary school when his two children, Ben and Rachel, were students there. Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, went to the school as well.
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