A year after charges were laid against then-MLA John Martin’s constituency assistant for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from Martin’s office, the man is scheduled to plead guilty in provincial court next week.
Desmond Michael Devnich is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000 and two counts of breach of trust by public officer in connection with allegations he stole money from Martin’s office between 2013 and 2017.
Martin is the BC Liberal incumbent candidate for the Oct. 24 provincial election, having served as MLA for the riding of Chilliwack since 2013.
The charges cover the time period from June 25, 2013 to February 27, 2017.
In March 2017, Martin told reporters in Victoria that the funds were discovered missing during an implementation of a new system. He said he met with the employee who admitted he had misappropriated the funds.
“That person’s employment has been terminated,” he said in 2017.
“I’m profoundly disappointed in what has happened as I believe we have an obligation to wisely manage taxpayer money,” Martin later told the Progress via telephone from Victoria.
Prior to that, but connected to the new system, Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming similarly discovered money missing from his constituency office. Fleming’s constituency assistant pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 in October 2016.
Special Prosecutor Robin McFee approved the charges to Devnich in September 2019, more than two years after he was fired by Martin.
Since then, he has had several court appearances where the case was put over to a new date. According to Court Services Online, Devnich is due in court on Oct. 6, 2020 with the intention to enter a guilty plea on all four counts.
The details of the case have not yet come out in court, but there are allegations that the amount of money allegedly stolen is substantially higher than the $5,000 threshold for the charges he faces.
Martin was asked Wednesday (Sept. 30) to comment on the intention to enter a guilty plea, but he said he would “reserve comment until the very end.”
The 30-year-old Devnich is well-known in the community having held positions including director of the Chilliwack & District Agricultural Society, the Rotary Club, and working with the Downtown BIA and most recently the Chilliwack Chiefs. Eight years ago he was featured by The Progress as one of the newspaper’s “Forty Under 40.”
– with a file from Tom Fletcher
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