RCMP say former Strathcona County official accused of theft and fraud involving public funds

A file photo of an RCMP vehicle. Global News / File

A high-ranking former employee of Strathcona County has been charged with theft and fraud related to public funds, according to the RCMP.

David James Churchill, 44, of Sherwood Park has been charged with theft over $5,000, fraud over $5,000 and uttering a forged document.

At a news conference on Wednesday, the county’s chief commissioner said Churchill used to be the director of the municipality’s transportation and agriculture department.

Darrell Reid said an internal audit triggered what eventually led to a criminal investigation.

“As information became available, internal investigation was actually started within an hour,” he said. “As we looked into it with an internal investigation, there were some things that concerned us.

“We were very focused on uncovering the data, getting our facts straight and working with experts to make sure that we had the whole picture as best as we could have it.”

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Darrell Reid, Strathcona County’s chief commissioner, and Const. Chantelle Kelly of the Strathcona County RCMP speak at a news conference on Dec. 21, 2022. Global News

Const. Chantelle Kelly of the Strathcona County RCMP told reporters that county managers reported their concerns to police. She said investigators believe items were purchased with public money for personal use and that “fraudulent expense claims” were submitted.

Kelly said the alleged offences were committed between February 2022 and May 2022 and involved about $16,000 worth of public funds.

Reid said he wants citizens to know the county has “regular checks and balances in place for all of our financial processes.”

“There’s a regular reporting mechanism,” he said. “We’re constantly improving our processes anyways in terms of fiscal accountability and managing public funds.

“I feel very confident about the processes in place.”

In a statement posted on the county’s website, Mayor Rod Frank said council first learned about the allegations in June.

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“As this was an important and urgent matter, within 24 hours of being briefed, council took steps to order an independent, forensic audit,” he said. “The auditors reported directly to council, not to administration.

“The audit findings were presented to council in November and due to the ongoing RCMP investigation as well as privacy considerations were not disclosed publicly.

“The matter is now in the legal system, and we will have no further comments while the matter is under judicial process.”

Churchill is scheduled to appear in Sherwood Park Provincial Court on Feb 1.

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