It’s become routine now. A dozen or so members and supporters of the Maberly Fair Board trooped into courtroom 2 at the town of Perth Courthouse on Monday morning at 9:30, just like they have on five previous occasions since last September. The case that interests them is a charge of Fraud over $5,000 against Bonnie Palmer, a Maberly-based business owner who, at one time, served as the Fair’s treasurer.
Palmer has not appeared in court as of yet, but her lawyer, Mark MacDonald, has been working with the Crown on a proposed resolution of the case. Two weeks ago, on January 21, MacDonald arrived in court well after the 9:30 start time, much to the consternation of the assembled fair supporters. At that time, MacDonald told Judge Peter Wright that he was close to arranging a plea deal with the Crown on behalf of his client. The only remaining sticking point was the “quantum”, he said, the amount of money that Palmer will pay in restitution to the Fair Board by Palmer in exchange for a diminished sentence, at the time of a guilty plea.
While the Fair Board has been careful about what they have said in public, the News can confirm that the Board considers that about $25,000 has gone missing, but the expectation is that only a percentage will be paid back in restitution, something in the $10,000 range.
As the case came back to court this week, Maberly Fair President Bill Cameron, who is an ex police officer and is familiar with court proceedings, said that he had been in touch with the Crown late last week, and at that point the Crown had not heard back from MacDonald’s office about final figures for restitution.
But that changed sometime after Friday morning (February 1st) and Monday’s court date. Bonnie Palmer was not in court, and in fact she has not appeared on any of the scheduled appearances thus far. Mike MacDonald was there, however. He told Judge Wright that his client needs another 3 weeks in order to pay restitution before the plea is entered, as it seems one of the conditions the Crown is seeking is for payment before the case is resolved. On those grounds, another 3-week extension was granted in the case, which is now set for an anticipated resolution on February 25 at 9:30am.
Taking note of the contingent from the Fair, Judge Wright advised the Crown to be in touch with a representative from the Board in case the expected resolution of the case on the 25th is delayed once more to save them another trip to Perth.
As they gathered in the hallway after leaving the courtroom, members of the board expressed frustration that the case is taking so long, and at the fact that Palmer has not yet been present in the court for any of the hearings.
“She will need to be in court for the plea,” said Cameron, “her lawyer cannot do that for her.”
A guilty plea is not a certainty on February 25th. If arrangements for payment can’t be made, or the deal falls apart for any other reason, it will result in a trial date being set for later this year, unless the Crown decides to drop the charges.
(The News reached out to Bonnie Palmer for comment on Tuesday morning (February 5), by calling her place of business. We reached an answering machine and left a message. We have not heard back as of yet. If and when we do, this article will be updated.)