A former top administrator with the largest school district in Newfoundland and Labrador has admitted to making more than $29,000 in fraudulent expense claims while working as a board superintendent in Alberta.

Richard Harvey, 63, pleaded guilty to fraud at provincial court in St. John’s Thursday.

A second charge of breach of trust was withdrawn.

Harvey left his job as assistant director of personnel with Newfoundland’s Eastern School District in 2006 to become superintendent of the Pembina Hills regional school division, north of Edmonton.

The expense-account fraud spanned the entire time Harvey worked in Alberta, from 2006 to 2010.

According to facts read into the court record, Pembina Hills called in forensic auditors after finding “irregularities” and “excessive claims” in Harvey’s expense account in 2010.

The results of that forensic audit were sent to police. Harvey was charged two years later.

The charges were transferred to Newfoundland from Alberta in late 2014. Harvey now lives in St. John's.

‘Highest position of trust’

According to a victim impact statement read in provincial court today, the rural school district north of Edmonton is still working to overcome the damage caused by the fraud more than four years later.

Harvey held the “highest position of trust,” Pembina Hills secretary-treasurer Tracy Meunier wrote in a letter read into the court record.

Alberta board officials were “angry and disappointed … [he] stole from the public purse,” the letter noted.

Crown prosecutor Jason House stressed there was a “lengthy period of dishonesty” involved in the fraud.

But defence lawyer Tom Williams noted that his client had a lengthy career as an educator, working as a teacher and principal in Newfoundland for 25 years and a school board administrator for another seven, and had no prior criminal record.

“He wants to express a level of remorse,” Williams said on behalf of his client.

The Crown and defence agreed on a 12-month conditional sentence as an appropriate punishment.

Judge Lori Marshall accepted the joint submission for house arrest.

Harvey will also repay the $29,000 to Pembina Hills within 30 days.