Penticton

After a nearly 18-month investigation, Penticton RCMP are recommending charges over a series of “financial irregularities” involving someone connected with the Downtown Penticton Association.

Supt. Ted De Jager confirmed Friday that the detailed file is now in the hands of the Crown’s office in Penticton.

“The file has gone to Crown counsel for charge approval,” De Jager said in a brief statement. “This process will take some time since it is a big file.”

In September 2016, the DPA’s newly hired executive director, Lynn Allin, noticed irregularities in the bookkeeping. She first contacted a forensic auditor, who advised her to notify a lawyer, who in turn suggested releasing all financial documents to the RCMP.

In December 2016, police began interviewing downtown business owners and executive members. At that time, a formal statement was made by Allin, acknowledging the investigation.

Former DPA executive director Kerri Milton said in a May 2017 interview that she was surprised to learn of the investigation.

Milton, who now resides in Victoria, noted she was particularly surprised by the possibility of financial irregularities because DPA bookkeeping and auditing are handled by outside firms, and cheques are signed by board members.

“I didn’t even have signing authority on purpose, because of keeping it an arm’s-length situation, so I don’t even know how that would be possible,” she said.

The name of the suspect or suspects has not been disclosed to the media. It is known that the investigation zeroed in on a time frame between 2013 and 2016.

Penticton RCMP have drawn on resources from E division headquarters in Kelowna. The lead officer on this case, De Jager said, has extensive experience in investigating fraud cases.

The DPA is a marketing group that consists of 610 members. Staff and volunteers organize special events, including this weekend’s Canada Day festivities.

The non-profit DPA is authorized as a business improvement area by a City of Penticton bylaw, which was renewed in 2017 for another five-year term. It requires all shop owners within the specified boundaries to join.

The area is question stretches from Lakeshore Drive south to Eckhardt Avenue and from Ellis Street west to Martin Street.

The fee is $1.10 per $1,000 of assessed property value to a maximum of $2,888 annually. The levy is expected to raise $207,000 this year.

The city bylaw permits the DPA to use that money for four purposes: prepare studies or reports; improve, beautify and maintain buildings, sidewalks and other structures; remove graffiti from buildings; and encourage business.

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