This was a case of damage control, harm reduction and crisis management. Senior management team members of a private school were, ‘caught with their hands in the cookie jar.’
The letter was mailed to families of the school’s students, and alumni donors. What follows was the 3rd and final draft of the letter. The client and I were working on a very, very tight deadline (he called me in the afternoon and the letter had to be sent the next day).
Because of the nature of the file I had to be very careful to not write anything that could result in a defamation action against the school by the former employees. As a professional journalist, I know a fair bit about defamation law, so I carefully penned a letter that would, at the same time, be enlightening, strident, reassuring and defamation-action proof.
As a result of the ongoing investigation into the recently discovered financial improprieties that lead to the dismissal of former Head Mistress ****** ******* and the subsequent voluntary resignation of former Business Manager *** ***, the Board of Directors of the ****** Academy has launched a civil court action against the two to recover all monies that were misappropriated for their personal gain. The Board has also had preliminary discussions with the Vancouver Police Department that may lead to criminal charges being laid against ******* and *** for fraud.
Although we have yet to determine the exact amount of purloined money, the Board can assure all concerned with the mission of the Academy that the school remains financially viable. The Board understands that the value of the ****** Academy cannot be calculated in financial terms and vows that the work of the selfless, dedicated and compassionate people who have made the school the incredible success story that it indisputably is will not be undone by the selfish and malicious duplicity of two individuals.
The Board would like to stress that it is vitally important that all supporters of the school handle this unfortunate situation in a manner that will not do damage to the Academy’s reputation as a unique and first rate institution of learning, or sully the reputations of all involved with its work. Should this incident become common public knowledge, valuable time, energy and resources would need to be expended engaging in an otherwise unnecessary exercise in crisis management that would be doubly onerous because the matter is now before the courts. Thus, we ask you all to remain calm and be patient as we do what is necessary to put this difficult period behind us as soon as possible.
As previously mentioned, the exact amount of money in question is still in question. The Statement of Claim filed in the courts makes it clear that ******* and *** used ****** Academy VISA cards extensively for their own personal gain. However, we can tell you that that any missing funds were not from resources allocated for special programs made possible by fundraising initiatives.
The Board understands that confidence and trust cannot be attained, or maintained, without openness and honesty. Lying and obfuscating can only result in the erosion of confidence and trust and that, indeed, is a slippery slope. However, when intricate and complicated legal actions have been initiated, it can be counter-productive or even anathema, to the desired goal to reveal all, to all. Thus the Board asks that you place your trust in it, with the assurance that the sordid details will be known when we have our day in court.
Each and every one of us has encountered difficult times in our lives and we have all overcome our difficulties and become stronger. We all need to support one another as we deal with this nasty squall. Our teachers, who are the school’s – and our children’s – most valuable resource, have proven that their faith in the ****** Academy’s mission is undamaged by governing themselves with commendable professionalism. We hope that our donors and volunteers will, likewise, continue to support our mission.
In closing this unfortunately necessary missive, the Board would like to repeat that the work of the selfless, dedicated and compassionate people who have made the school the incredible success story that it indisputably is will not be undone by the selfish and malicious duplicity of two individuals.