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Leaf Rapids mayor charged with stealing, forging cheques

LEAF Rapids Mayor Geraldine Cockerill is facing 28 charges of fraud, forgery and mail theft, RCMP said Wednesday.

The charges relate to her time as Canada Post postmistress in Leaf Rapids.

Investigators began to look at the case in May 2010 when Employment and Income Assistance and Canada Post contacted the Leaf Rapids detachment over suspicious activities at the post office, Sgt. Line Karpish said Wednesday.

The allegations related to the handing of individuals' Income Security cards and cheques by a staff member at the post office.

Last month, RCMP turned over evidence to the Crown and on Dec. 5 Cockerill, the postmistress at the time of the alleged offences, was charged with four counts of fraud under $5,000, eight counts of uttering a forged document, eight counts of forgery and eight counts of theft from mail.

Cockerill could not be reached Wednesday. She told CBC earlier Wednesday that she is innocent of the charges and will remain in office.

An emergency meeting of town council was held in her office Wednesday afternoon, though neither Cockerill nor the town solicitor was present, councillors said.

They would not comment on the charges, pointing out Cockerill is innocent until the charges have been heard in court.

Coun. Gary Trewin, whom town staff originally identified as the deputy mayor, said there is no legal reason Cockerill cannot stay in office pending the outcome of the court process.

"Under the Municipal Act, she has the right to remain," said Trewin.

Coun. Allan Linklater, who said he is currently the deputy mayor, agreed with Trewin he is not aware of anything under the Municipal Act that would force Cockerill to step down now. However, he would not say if council had discussed that issue: "I don't want to comment on that," he said.

Linklater said the meeting was called "on very short notice," and he only learned of the charges Wednesday afternoon.

Police believe the alleged offences occurred between December 2009 and April 2010, including forged signatures on Employment and Income Assistance cards and cheques.

On Tuesday, Karpish said, Cockerill was served a summons to appear in Leaf Rapids Court on March 20, 2013.

Leaf Rapids is a town of 453 about 1,000 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. Cockerill was first elected as mayor in 2010.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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