Michelle Susan Butler leaves Murwillumbah Local Court.
Michelle Susan Butler leaves Murwillumbah Local Court. Tweed Daily News

P&C treasurer stole to pay bills

THE pressure of paying bills and raising four young children drove Michelle Susan Butler to steal $3251.20 in publicly raised funds from Tyalgum Public School, the Murwillumbah Local Court heard yesterday.

The married 35-year-old took the money during her two-year period as the school's Parents and Citizens Association treasurer, from March 6, 2006 to March 3, 2008.

Butler pleaded guilty to misappropriation of funds at her first court appear- ance on January 21 and was sentenced yesterday.

Her solicitor Mark Boys told the court Butler had endured a public shaming because of her actions and had been forced to remove her four children, aged five, seven, eight and 10 years from the school.

“She accepted the role (as P&C treasurer) in 2006 and did the best she could, but she had bills mounting up and sadly took some money she always intended to pay back,” Mr Boys said.

There was a dispute about the exact amount Butler took, with Mr Boys saying it was $400 less than $3251.20, but he added it was not worth wasting the court's time over $400 and Butler wanted to plead guilty at the earliest opportunity.

The school was happy with an arrangement for Butler to pay the money back at $100 a fortnight, Mr Boys said.

Magistrate Nicholas Reimer said the situation was a “shame”.

“We have a person with no prior (criminal history), but on the other hand this is a very serious situation,” Mr Reimer said. “You were in a position of trust and you have breached that trust, so there has to be a conviction for the offence,” he said to Butler.

Mr Reimer said he would not impose a further burden on Butler by imposing a fine, but she must pay back the full amount of $3251.20, plus $73 in court costs and serve a two-year good-behaviour bond.

According to police facts tendered to the court, Butler took fundraising and float money, and even cashed P&C cheques to pay her own bills.

When a new committee was elected in 2008 it noticed discrepancies in its accounts and auditors from the Department of Education were called.

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