Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Childcare centre boss loses unfair sacking bid

The ERA was also told Ms Larnach used a work account meant to pay for children's food. Photo / Nikki Papatsoumas
The ERA was also told Ms Larnach used a work account meant to pay for children's food. Photo / Nikki Papatsoumas

An early childhood centre manager who used an account set aside for children's lunches for her holiday spending, booze and cigarettes, has failed to prove she was unjustifiably dismissed.

Stacey Larnach, who worked at Tauranga's Wickham Preschool, was also found responsible by the preschool for accounting discrepancies totalling about $20,000, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) said yesterday.

Ms Larnach, who took her claim that she was unjustifiably constructively dismissed and not paid performance bonuses for the job as manager that she had held since July 2010 to the authority, resigned in June, 2012.

The ERA was also told Ms Larnach used a work account meant to pay for children's food while she was holidaying in Fiji with her partner - a trip paid for by her employer as a reward for attending alcohol counselling.

While manager of the preschool, Ms Larnach was responsible for countless clerical errors, including three instances of false declarations to Work and Income New Zealand. Concerns were also raised about Ms Larnach's drunk and inappropriate behaviour at a staff function in 2011.

Her employer arranged for her to attend counselling sessions to deal with her alcohol issues and, when it appeared she had made good efforts, they paid for her holiday in Fiji.

While they were there, her boss was shocked to discover Ms Larnach had continued to use the work's Pak'n Save account, which had been set up to buy groceries for children at the centre. Ms Larnach had been given access to the account because she was responsible for school lunch catering. As payment for this responsibility, it had been agreed Ms Larnach could buy $150 of personal groceries each week. However, she had been buying alcohol and cigarettes for herself from the account, despite being told not to.

Ms Larnach said she resigned from the job because she had considered that she was being "targeted" by her boss for trivial matters and because she feared that the matter would impact on her teacher's registration. The authority dismissed her claim.

- APNZ

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