Nfld. & Labrador

Judges hear appeal of ex-school board manager's convictions

A former Newfoundland and Labrador English School District manager was at the Court of Appeal in St. John’s, where his lawyer argued that three corruption-related convictions should be overturned.

Derek Newhook was found guilty of fraud and breach of trust in 2018

Former Newfoundland and Labrador English School District manager Derek Newhook appears at the Court of Appeal in St. John’s on Thursday morning. (Rob Antle/CBC)

A former Newfoundland and Labrador English School District manager was at the Court of Appeal in St. John's on Thursday, where his lawyer argued that three corruption-related convictions should be overturned.

Last year, Derek Newhook was found guilty of two counts of fraud and one count of breach of trust.

He was acquitted of another 15 fraud-related charges.

After a lengthy trial at provincial court in Grand Bank, Judge Harold Porter ruled that Newhook had employees of the Burin Peninsula school bus depot make a shed and trailer that were "surplus to the requirements of the school board."

The trailer and shed were taken to the equipment yard of Kevin Walsh, a friend of Newhook, and remained there "out of reach of the school board" for two years.

"This was dishonest deprivation, which in law is fraud," Porter wrote in his decision.

A three-judge panel heard Newhook's appeal of his fraud and breach of trust convictions. (Rob Antle/CBC)

On Thursday morning at the Court of Appeal, lawyer Randy Piercey submitted that there are other reasonable explanations for why the shed and trailer could have remained on that property.

Employees at the school board depot were busy dealing with "a major change in the school system" at the time — the shift to full-day kindergarten.

"They didn't have time to move it," Piercey told the three-judge Court of Appeal panel.

"It might have just been stored there because they were doing other things."

The breach of trust conviction included Newhook's use of school board labour to install a lift kit and moose lights on Walsh's truck, which the school board had rented.

The trial judge ruled that Newhook "made decisions and took actions which were not in the best interests of his employer, and which favoured himself and his friend Kevin Walsh."

But at the appeal hearing, Piercey stressed that the judge "misapprehended the evidence," and these modifications were done for the benefit of employees who were using the truck.

He said the criminal breach of trust provisions were not meant to deal with situations like this one.

'Abuse of authority,' Crown says

Crown lawyer Dana Sullivan disagreed, drawing a parallel to a boss asking a subordinate to bake cookies or paint a fence for them.

"It is an abuse of authority to do things like that," Sullivan said.

"It is the Crown's position that the trial judge made no error."

Newhook was the school district's regional operations manager on the Burin Peninsula before he was fired in 2016. Charges followed soon after.

After his conviction on three counts last year, he received a suspended sentence, a year of probation, and was ordered to pay restitution of about $4,000.

The Court of Appeal judges did not make a decision at the end of Thursday's hearing, but instead opted to reserve it for a later date.

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About the Author

Rob Antle

CBC News

Rob Antle is producer for CBC's investigative unit in Newfoundland and Labrador.