Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Former finance manager of debt-plagued MTYP accused of stealing money

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The former finance manager of a cash-strapped Winnipeg theatre has been accused of stealing more than $77,000 in funds.

Kathleen Owen-Hunt, 38, is facing five charges of fraud and theft following a lengthy police investigation, according to court documents obtained by the Free Press. She made her first court appearance last week and remains free on bail. No trial dates have been set, and Owen-Hunt is presumed innocent.

Officials at the Manitoba Theatre For Young People raised alarms bells late last year after discovering money had gone missing between 2008 and 2011. They reported the matter to police and quickly filed a civil lawsuit against Owen-Hunt, claiming she falsified records and manipulated company payroll.

In their affidavit, MTYP claims Owen-Hunt used the money to take several trips, including to Disney World and Hawaii, and to purchase property in tropical locales. MTYP is seeking full repayment, with interest. The matter remains before the courts and is set for hearing in January.

Owen-Hunt began working for the theatre in 2006 and resigned in August 2011, according to court documents.

MTYP has been making headlines recently for its offstage drama, including severe cashflow problems and a debt that has ballooned to $2.3 million. At its annual general meeting earlier this fall, staff and board members were told the company has registered a $495,155 operating deficit on its 2011-12 season. Auditor Ken Leslie said, "this organization has a going-concern issue," and could not continue without additional funding.

"MTYP is currently in financial crisis after surviving a number of other brushes with near-collapse," stated the financial report tabled at the meeting. The report went on to state the company’s continued existence is dependent upon its ability to restore positive cashflows and profitable operations. Also announced at the meeting was the formation by government funders of an interim management board to assist MTYP to develop a recovery plan.

-with files from Kevin Prokosh

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