A former Bendigo Health construction manager has walked away with a fine after a lengthy investigation by the state’s independent anti-corruption watchdog.
Adam David Hardinge, 39, was convicted and fined $15,000 in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to nine theft and deception charges.
The court heard Hardinge misappropriated $28,742.69 worth of building materials and equipment belonging to the hospital between May, 2012, and March, 2015.
In imposing the fine, magistrate David Faram said if it were not for his otherwise good character, Hardinge would be facing a term of imprisonment for the crimes.
Hardinge must also make a payment of $5000 to the Bendigo Health Foundation.
In arguing for the imposition of a “significant” fine, defence barrister Tara Hartnett told the court the offending was uncharacteristic, saying there was nothing about Hardinge’s personal circumstances at the time that would explain his conduct.
Ms Hartnett told the court the type of offending was not uncommon within the construction industry, and that there were “certain practices that went on that became the norm for some”, but Mr Faram said that could be no excuse. “I'm left with the impression it's rife within the industry and he thought ‘fair enough, I'll have a go’,” he said.
The court heard Hardinge was now living with his mother and once again in steady employment in the construction industry, which Mr Faram described as “a significant leap of faith” on the part of his new employer.
Ms Hartnett agreed, but said Hardinge’s current employer had known him for a long time and “thus far he’s not been let down”.
She said the offending had been unsophisticated and Hardinge now had “nothing to show for it”.
“There’s not a stash of cash anywhere,” she said.
The court heard the offending at times involved other employees at the hospital, including an instance in which Hardinge instructed other staff members to have cheques that should have gone to Bendigo Health made out to his family trust.
No charges against any other hospital employee have been laid, but Mr Faram expressed his concern at their involvement, saying it “normalises this type of conduct”.
The crimes were committed while Hardinge was employed by Bendigo Health to manage demolition works on the site of the new $630 million hospital.
Hardinge was charged in July this year after a whistleblower first raised concerns with Bendigo Health in November, 2014.
Following an independent investigation by the health service, the matter was referred to Victoria Police, with IBAC taking over the investigation in January, 2015.
The nine charges on which Hardinge was convicted are:
- Between May 2012 and July 2013 Hardinge instructed staff members to have cheques valued at $14,824.50 for scrap metal sold to a business in Bendigo made out to his family trust, rather than to Bendigo Health which owned the steel.
- Between January 2012 and March 2015 Hardinge stole approximately 2000 heritage bricks valued at $2000 belonging to Bendigo Health, half of which he installed as pavers at a property he owned.
- Between March 2012 and March 2015 Hardinge stole door jambs valued at $1006.05 from Bendigo Health, which were also installed at a property he owned.
- Between March 2012 and March 2014 Hardinge instructed Bendigo Health staff to take insulation bats valued at $3183.80 from the hospital site to a property belonging to him.
- Between February 2012 and March 2015 Hardinge also stole timber decking and galvanised steel mesh valued at $6485.98 and $402.60 respectively.
- Between May 2014 and September 2014 Hardinge stole a Milwaukee heated jacket and charger from Bendigo Health which he gifted to the owner of a cafe on the work site, who has since returned the items to the hospital.
- In August 2014 Hardinge also stole removal cartons valued at $90.91 belonging to Bendigo Health.
- Between August 2014 and September 2014 Hardinge attempted to obtain cleaning services valued at $512.50 for a property occupied by his girlfriend, but that invoice was never paid.
Hardinge will have six months to pay the $5000 to the Bendigo Health Foundation.