Another Chance?

One of our readers has caught a woman in the very act of embezzling charitable funds
September 01 2016 | by

DEAR FRIAR RICK: I am facing a moral dilemma. I work for a lay charitable organization – an anti-cancer society. A few weeks ago I caught one of my female colleagues diverting a few dollar notes we received in a sealed envelope as a donation in the fight against cancer into her own purse.

This colleague, a mother with 4 children to feed, was sure no one had seen her, but during the lunch break I confronted her about the incident.

At first she denied it, saying I was delusional, but because I am quite sure of what I saw, I did not cave in to her suggestions that I had misinterpreted the scene. At the end of a tense, but quiet conversation, she asked me to move outside the building, next to the car park, where no one could hear us. Once there she broke down, and in tears told me that she was having woeful financial problems at home, that her husband had lost his job, and that they were quite unable to make ends meet.

This colleague pleaded with me not to report the incident to our superiors, and told me she was sure that, despite her financial woes, she will be able to resist any further temptations of embezzlement of charity funds.

I am now facing a moral dilemma. Misappropriation of money for charitable purposes is an odious crime, but if I report her to our superiors she might lose her job. I would thus be harming her entire family. Should I give her another chance, Friar Rick?

I have been in a similar position to the one you face, and I have also had to make difficult choices. In both cases though I was the person in charge. So it was a little bit different. The first time I had an employee who stole money, like your co-worker did. I responded by getting the employee to pay the money back and then got the employee help to deal with the issues. It made me feel good about me, that I was being a good boss. But in the end it did nothing for the employee who went on to do it again. The second time an employee stole from my ministry I acted differently. I got the person to give the money back immediately, but I also fired the person. I knew that this was a really good person who was obviously making a bad decision for some strange reason so I decided not call the police (which would lead to criminal charges) as long as the person went for counseling for at least 10 sessions to a counselor of my choosing. The person went and came to some healing and eventually apologized to me in the presence of their counselor.

As I mentioned earlier, in both cases I was the person in charge. In your case you don’t have the authority to make the decision on how to proceed.

It’s not your responsibility to make that judgment. You also may not be fully aware of your co-worker’s history. She may have done this before and your boss my have given her multiple chances. You don’t know this. What you do know is what you say. You are aware of a crime, and by failing to report it you are an accomplice to it. I’m afraid you don’t really have much of a choice as to how to proceed. Your coworker may be angry with you. Your coworker may have reasons why she felt she had no other recourse. But it’s still not your call to make as to how to proceed. Speaking the truth does not mean you don’t care. You can still help her in other ways if in fact she is having such horrible financial problems. Then again, I would be very cautious. Criminals have a way of spinning stories that are very compelling and which lead others to lose their shirts in the process of helping them out. Be very careful. ✦

This article is offered for educational purposes. It should not be seen as a substitute for obtaining counselling.

Updated on September 28 2016
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