Woman convicted of fraud sues council for unfair dismissal

A FORMER Richmond Valley Council employee who received a 12 month suspended sentence for defrauding a Casino business of almost $17,000 is taking the council to court for unfair dismissal.

Debra Lee Mortimer appeared in Casino Local Court yesterday after previously pleading guilty to 18 charges of dishonestly obtaining property by deception and one count of publishing false misleading material to obtain advantage.

The charges relate to the former 41-year-old Connolly Key Joint bookkeeper defrauding the business.

The court previously heard Mortimer "skimmed" money from the business bank accounts during her six month employment.

It was also alleged Mortimer altered her pay slips so she could obtain a higher limit on her credit card.

Mortimer's solicitor Gary Hooper said his client was in bad financial circumstances and intended to pay back the money.

Magistrate David Heilpern said Connolly Key Joint was a small business where the owners had worked very hard over a number of years.

"There isn't many manufacturing success stories in this area and this is one of them," he said.

"You perceived yourself as needing to live a better lifestyle than you were living."

In sentencing Mortimer to 12 months' jail, wholly suspended, Mr Heilpern described her offending as "sneaky and designed not to be caught".

Connolly Key Joint owners, Mark and Michelle Connolly, said they were relieved the ordeal was finally over.

"We've never received an apology from any of the Mortimer family at all," they said.

"The Mortimers and Connollys have known each other for two generations."

After Mortimer pleaded guilty to the charges her employment at the council was terminated.

The council's chief executive John Walker said Mortimer had listed a case with the Industrial Relations Commission for unfair dismissal, which he said the council would "defend vigorously".

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