School principal guilty of serious misconduct after using credit card at McDonald's

A former primary school principal has been found guilty of serious misconduct after misusing a school credit card - including buying a meal at McDonald's. Photo / www.123rf.com
A former primary school principal has been found guilty of serious misconduct after misusing a school credit card - including buying a meal at McDonald's. Photo / www.123rf.com

A former primary school principal has been found guilty of serious misconduct after misusing a school credit card - including buying a meal at McDonald's.

Toni Hill, formerly of Mercer School in the Waikato, was brought before the NZ Teachers' Disciplinary Tribunal after it was discovered she had used a school-issued credit card for personal purposes, which went against school policy.

Hill signed a policy for the credit card in October 2013, stating she agreed to a number of requirements including that the card only be used for the payment of actual and reasonable travel, accommodation and meal costs incurred while on school business.

The school's policy also stated that she must provide receipts or documentation indicating that the card was indeed used for school business.

In February 2014, the school's secretary received a bank statement for the credit card and approached the then principal for receipts.

Hill told the secretary she had used the card for personal expenditure, including buying petrol for her car, using it at the supermarket and at McDonald's.

The dockets provided included three uses at petrol stations - including a $134.14 bill - an $11.40 meal at McDonald's, a $49.58 grocery bill at a Countdown supermarket and a $78 hotel bill in Rotorua.

The total amount used by the then head of the school was just under $400, which she paid back before the school's board met to discuss the matter.

During an investigation, Hill resigned as principal in July, 2014.

In a statement given by Hill, she admitted she had first used the credit card as she had misplaced her wallet.

"I was at the petrol station and I had already put the petrol in my car. I looked where I normally stored it, but it wasn't there.

"I knew I kept the school credit card in a locked compartment in my car. I thought if I used the credit card it would be okay for things I needed as I had not found my wallet - I would repay all that I had used.''

Hill said she knew using the card for her own personal benefits was wrong.

"I felt guilty and knew that deep down I was guilty.''

She said one of the reasons she chose not to admit to using the school credit card earlier on was that she "felt guilty and sick''.

"I had worked so hard to get where I was and now because of a foolish decision, it could all be ruined. I knew there would be consequences, but never would I have thought I would have to resign and leave the job I loved.''

Following Hill's resignation, Mercer School provided the Education Council with a mandatory report of the incident.

The NZ Teachers' Disciplinary Tribunal censured Hill for serious misconduct and imposed conditions on her practising certificate - including that for a year, she must inform any current or potential employer of the decision.

She was also ordered to pay half the costs of the Tribunal and the Education Council's Complaints Assessment Committee and was not to continue or accept any position that would involve her having managerial financial responsibility.

- NZ Herald

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