Charlotte's web of deceit found out

President Solomon probably not as wise as her kingly namesake

A former president of the Maori Law Students’ Association has been indefinitely excluded from the University after stealing money from the Association during her presidency in 2013. Critic began investigating the incident last year but was unsuccessful in exposing the student despite fruitless attempts to have the information disclosed by the Law Faculty, the University, an Official Information Act request, and the Ombudsman.

Charlotte Harata Solomon was convicted last year in the Dunedin District Court for taking a total of $1736.59 from the Association’s bank account by making false invoices. She was sentenced in October to nine months’ supervision and ordered to pay $260 in court costs and the outstanding reparation.

The incident was last week reported on by the ODT when the University released their annual report on dishonest offences to the University Council, after Solomon had already appeared in the Dunedin District Court. The report detailed that Solomon was referred to the Provost and then the Vice Chancellor (VC) with the recommendation that she be dealt with by way of exclusion. The VC subsequently excluded her from further enrolment with immediate effect for an indefinite period.

Critic began investigating the situation in September 2013, and made several requests to the Law Faculty and University for the financial records pertaining to the Maori Law Students’ Association. As a registered charity, the Association is required to file an annual return each year but unfortunately the affected records were not yet publicly available. Upon the University and Law Faculty declining to supply the information, Critic sought to hold the perpetrator to account and filed a complaint under the Official Information Act for the Ombudsman to release the records.

However, the request was declined in late November. The response said that the Law Faculty “did not hold any of [the Association’s] financial information” and that the Association “is responsible for themselves.” However, it did acknowledge that the Law Faculty was aware of the issue after the Treasurer of the Association told the Faculty of a letter that they had received regarding a bill not being paid. It appeared the bill in question had been paid by the Faculty, as was sometimes practice, but the money had not been received by the biller. According to the Ombudsman, the matter was then brought to the attention of the University and referred to the Police. The Ombudsman subsequently closed the file.

Despite being indefinitely excluded from the University, Solomon is still listed as an officer of the Association on the Charities Register.

The annual report also shows a significant drop in the number of students disciplined by the University last year, which reflects the “continuing improvement in the overall behaviour standards.” It revealed that the Proctor saw 530 students in 2013. 13 students were referred to the Provost for further action in relation to their offending, and nine of those were referred to the VC.

Director of student services David Richardson said it was “pleasing” to see the downward trend of such figures and attributed the decrease in the number of serious incidents to the “multifaceted proactive approach” the University had taken in recent years.
This article first appeared in Issue 3, 2014.
Posted 4:35pm Sunday 9th March 2014 by Claudia Herron.