A once high-profile Hamilton secondary school principal has been sentenced to 40 hours community service after he pleaded guilty to using school funds to pay for building work on his personal property.
Martin Elliott, who resigned from Fraser High School in November 2009 after an investigation into alleged financial mismanagement at the school was made public, was sentenced in the Hamilton District Court this morning following his guilty pleas last week to two charges of taking or obtaining a document for pecuniary advantage.
Judge Glen Marshall convicted and discharged Elliott on one charge but on the other ordered him to carry out 40 hours community service, likely to be at Te Puke Intermediate School as a remedial reading teacher.
Elliott had originally faced 64 charges of fraud, including money laundering and was to go on trial in March, however all but the two charges he pleaded guilty to had been thrown out.
Defence lawyer Michael Reed, QC, asked that Elliott be discharged without conviction so that he could move on with his life and continue to work in education, but Judge Marshall said there was a degree of pre-meditation involved in the second charge which related to alterations Elliott had done on his beach house at Papamoa.
Judge Marshall described how Elliott paid for the $1203 worth of work with a school cheque and hid the fraud by asking the builder to invoice the work as part of a school construction being undertaken at the time.
"I am of the view this is an offence which shows some persistence on your part to follow through with a trail of deception. You had ample opportunity to come to your senses and stop that at any point and have the money repaid to the school but you continued."
In sentencing Elliott Judge Marshall took into account a series of character references including from Hamilton business people which spoke highly of Elliott, and his guilty pleas which prevented a lengthy trial.
Elliott did not want to speak to media outside the court but one of his lawyers - Mark Hammond - said it was significant that out of the original 64 charges, Elliott was only convicted on one.
"He just really wants to get on with his life."
Mr Hammond said the conviction meant Elliott's future as a Justice of the Peace, marriage celebrant, and teacher were at risk.
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