The Auckland Pride Centre's Board of Trustees says it's had a difficult three years waiting for their fraud case to be resolved - with one senior Pride Centre staffer weathering personal abuse and threats of violence. The Pride Centre's former coordinator Martin van der Reit took $35,000 from the small community organisation between late 2003 and early 2004. The cash crisis meant the Centre was forced to close shortly afterwards, and has not since been able to re-open. Last Thursday, a jury at Auckland District Court found van der Reit guilty on sixteen of seventeen charges of fraud and guilty of using a document to pervert the course of justice. The Board of Trustees of the Auckland Pride Centre now say they are justifiably pleased with the verdict, and commend the work and "unwavering support" of the police during "the long and stressful process". In a statement released today, Pride Trustees Joel Stutter, Suzanne Paul, John Lendrem, Edward Bennett and John Fromont acknowledged their friends and supporters in the community, including trial witnesses such as former staff member Cath Cocker. "As a group, the Trustees have worked together, and supported each other, through this crisis, without dissent," the statement says. "The last three and a half years has not been at all easy for any of us, and the journey has taken its toll on all of us individually. Edward Bennett is in particular to be commended for weathering personal abuse over this issue as well as threats of physical violence." Without the generous donation of the time and skills of accountant Rob Giles and legal advisor Chris Lawrence, the conviction would have been much harder to achieve, if not impossible, the Trustees note. The Pride Centre Trust Board can now at last make plans for the future, they conclude. "Since its inception in 1988, the Auckland Pride Centre has achieved a great deal of good and looks forward to future service to and involvement in the Auckland LGBT Community."
Credit: GayNZ.com News Staff
First published: Wednesday, 21st November 2007 - 11:56am
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