Priest pleads guilty to AUT fraud

By Hayden Donnell

Jonathan Kirkpatrick has pleaded guilty. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Jonathan Kirkpatrick has pleaded guilty. Photo / Steven McNicholl

A former AUT staff member has admitted defrauding the university of more than half a million dollars.

Jonathan Kirkpatrick, 53, resigned as chief executive of the university's Business Innovation Centre after an internal investigation found "accounting discrepencies" involving $665,000.

He pleaded guilty to seven fraud related charges when he appeared in the Auckland District Court this morning.

He'll be sentenced on October 6.

His offending involved more than $665,000 taken from AUT between 2002 and May this year.

Kirkpatrick is the former Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in Dunedin and ex-partner of former Labour MP Tim Barnett.

After the Herald broke the news of the police investigation, AUT moved quickly to file legal action against Kirkpatrick in the High Court at Auckland.

AUT has remained tight-lipped about its investigation, but vice-chancellor Derek McCormack sent an email to reassure the university's 26,000 students on July 30.

He said the "accounting discrepancies" were discovered in the Business Innovation Centre accounts and there were no indications that anyone else was involved.

"We are very disappointed to discover the discrepancies were by a trusted senior staff member, especially when money for research and development and tertiary education is scarce," said Mr McCormack.

"The discrepancies relate to money in the research and development field, and is not derived from student fees.

"Nevertheless, AUT is largely a student and taxpayer-funded organisation and remains accountable to the highest accounting standards."

In the email, Mr McCormack said AUT would do "everything in its legal powers to recover any loss", and a second investigation was under way to review financial processes.

Kirkpatrick had worked at the university since 2002.

He has a long history in the Anglican Church and until recently had been the priest in charge of St Albans in Balmoral. However, a church spokesman said Kirkpatrick no longer held any role of responsibility in the church.

Before moving to Auckland, Kirkpatrick was the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in Dunedin and the vicar of St Michael and All Angels, Christchurch.

Kirkpatrick has a high profile as a gay-rights advocate within the church. His relationship with Mr Barnett, the former Christchurch Central MP, lasted 18 years. In August 1998, he broke his back when thrown from a car after Mr Barnett fell asleep at the wheel and ran off the road in Dunedin.

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