It’s hard for Gordon Walsh to even consider forgiving his longtime friend, a man who turned against him and stole more than C$270,000 from the union he was heading. Walsh, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 32 and ex-president of Local 68, sat in the Ontario Court of Justice in Kitchener, Ontario, Apr. 26 as Harvey Holst, ex-Local 68 secretary-treasurer, pled guilty to pocketing a total of C$271,800 in union funds from Jan. 1989 to May 2000. The missing money was noticed in May 2000 after Local 68 amalgamated with two other unions representing outside municipal workers. Holst, who secretary-treasurer for 12 years, was arrested in July 2001.
“I’ve lost many, many hours of sleep over this,” said Walsh. “I went through a lot of hardships because people accused me of being in cahoots with him.” Walsh said they haven’t spoken since the embezzlement was uncovered.
Union officials first noticed discrepancies in financial statements given to them by Holst after checking on the union’s bank account shortly before the amalgamation. “The statements he showed had one set of numbers, but the bank account numbers were certainly lower,” said Mark Charboneau, staff representative for the union, who was also at the plea hearing.
While working for the union, Holst altered financial books and issued checks to himself by forging Walsh’s name. At the union’s monthly meetings, Holst would give false statements, Walsh
said. Holst paid back C$146,897 of the C$271,800. Insurance was able to pay out $50,000 to the union, resulting in C$74,903 still missing. However, when the discrepancies were first found, the union paid to have an audit done, which cost C$17,611. Sentencing is scheduled for May 21.
Walsh said he called Holst about the missing money shortly after it was discovered and said Holst didn’t deny taking it. However, he gave no reason why. “We never received any satisfactory answer,” said Charboneau. “I’m sure if we asked him today it would be that the money was there and he just took it.” [Record (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario) 4/27/02]