The Ottawa Citizen
24 January 2014
Photograph by: Julie Oliver , Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — The longtime accountant at Blessed Sacrament Parish who was fired in the wake of the Father Joe LeClair scandal holds no grudge against his former boss — and doesn’t want to see him go to jail.
Hervé Dejordy was chair of the parish finance committee and principal bookkeeper during LeClair’s 14 years as pastor at Blessed Sacrament.
Dejordy was fired from his volunteer position by the diocese in a June 2011 letter, two months after the Citizen exposed LeClair’s heavy gambling, large credit card debts and unfettered access to church money.
Dejordy, however, does not fault LeClair for putting him in the unenviable position of trying to balance the books for a crooked priest.
What’s more, he thinks LeClair has been punished enough through his public humiliation. Dejordy does not want to see him go to jail.
“I would like the diocese to find him a place somewhere,” Dejordy said in an interview Friday. “He would be great asset for any youth organization.”
LeClair is to be sentenced on March 19.
He pleaded guilty this week to theft and fraud in connection with $130,000 taken from church coffers between January 2006 and December 2010. An analysis of the $1.16 million that moved through LeClair’s personal accounts during that same period identified $400,000 in deposits that couldn’t be explained.
Court heard LeClair wrote cheques to himself; improperly pocketed cash from marriage preparation courses; stole from Sunday collections; overcharged the church for legitimate expenses; and improperly charged the church for a $5,700 vacation.
An audit by Deloitte and Touche suggested the exact amount of church money improperly used by LeClair may be impossible to determine given that financial controls at Blessed Sacrament were so poor at the time.
For months after the scandal erupted, LeClair repeatedly denied taking any church money. Through his then lawyer, LeClair pointed fingers at the church finance committee and diocese, blaming their lack of oversight for financial irregularities.
Dejordy said he holds no hard feelings, and in fact, feels LeClair rendered the diocese “a great service” by exposing the weaknesses of its financial systems.
In January 2012, the Archdiocese of Ottawa imposed strict new rules for the handling of church money. The rules require that “tamper evident” bags be used to store Sunday collections, that all cheques be countersigned, and that church finance committees meet at least four times a years.
Other rules have been established for bill payments, electronic banking, credit card use, financial reporting, budgeting, tax filing, audits and computer security.