Two Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) executives allege that more than $90,000 was stolen from the union’s coffers before they took office. One executive says it happened during a time of poor oversight and transparency when student leaders failed to act on auditors’ suggestions.
In a blog post published online last Monday night, current RSU president Andrea Bartlett wrote that more than $90,000 was stolen from the union in previous years – $50,000 from the office safe and more than $40,000 from credit cards.
“We know the fraud, the missing $50,000, was reported to the Toronto Police Services at that time, in 2009,” said Ryerson’s interim president Mohamed Lachemi.
Jermaine Bagnall, RSU president in 2009, said that the issue of money stolen during his presidency “has been sorted out,” adding that he was shocked to be contacted about something that happened so long ago.
“It was reported to the police,” he said, adding that campus security was involved at the time, and cameras were installed in the first floor and the basement of the RSU building after the incident.
It is unclear when the credit card fraud occurred.
“The allegation of credit card fraud was also brought recently to the attention of our security, and that was just done last week,” Lachemi said. “They took a report and we strongly recommended RSU to contact Toronto Police Services.”
Lachemi explained that because the RSU is separate from the school, the university cannot contact the police on the RSU’s behalf, “but (we) are encouraging (the RSU) to do so.”
Toronto police say that a member of the RSU should immediately file a report with them about the alleged thefts.
David Hopkinson, a media relations officer with the Toronto Police Service, said that “a member of the union should make a report.”
“These incidents should be reported to us so we may begin an investigation,” he said.
Obaid Ullah, surrent vice-president of operations and presidential candidate for the upcoming RSU election, was part of the team that worked on the ivnestigation into the allegedly stolen money.
In an email response last Friday night, he said that they found out about the thefts well into their term when their general manager, Natasha Campagna, began to look into their finances. He said that they motified Ryerson security when they made the discovery.
Ullah said that when he was elected into office, the policies and practices of the union were lackign oversight and safeguards.
“The reality of the frustration that we experienced when we came into office,” he said, was that there was “absolutely no HR or management,” minimal public documents, records that were deleted, and no workplace policies.
On top of that, the incoming team was dealing with over $100,000 worth of debt racked up from a lawsuit for which there was no budget or oversight.
Not to mention the money missing from the safe and the credit cards.
Bartlett said she was told that the funds were written off as bad debt, so no further action was taken.
“I’ve been told that not much else can be done,” Bartlett said.
Both RSU executives say that the union’s financial policies have been changed since the thefts.
“We eliminated the number of credit cards the organization had to two based on the recommendations of the auditor’s report, which hadn’t been acted on in the past,” said Ullah.
Bartlett said that after the incident, cameras and locks were installed in the office.
But that was not the end of her frustration.
In the post, Bartlett also wrote about “sweetheart” deals made by previous executives in order to “get their friends paid.”
These deals, she indicated in the post, are something the union is still trying to deal with. She said that she will be notifying incoming executives about the situation.
“It’s certainly something I’ll relay to them in transitioning,” she said.
As for Ullah, he says that the transform party was elected to precisely on the platform that they would clean up the Union, which he says is exactly what they have been doing.
“The entire year, my team and I have worked incredibly hard to ensure that the RSU is not only more relatable to the student’s on the outside, but that it is run efficiently on the inside,” he said.
“I hope that next year, the team elected will be able to continue our path of making the RSU accountable, efficient and transparent because if not, then it will face some even tougher decisions make in order to sustain itself into the future.”