Tas charity CEO systematically stole $111k

Sean Peter Burk (centre) has avoided jail for swindling from the meals on wheels service he ran.
Sean Peter Burk (centre) has avoided jail for swindling from the meals on wheels service he ran.

The former boss of Meals on Wheels Tasmania, who stole $111,000 from the charity while experiencing medication-induced impulsive behaviour, has dodged serving jail time.

Sean Peter Burk, 62, spent the money, taken between July 2012 and February 2017, on chats with adult workers, food and other personal expenses.

He gave about $20,000 to a woman overseas who he thought he was in a relationship with.

Burk started taking dopamine-based drug sifrol for Parkinson's disease in 2013, which caused him to develop impulse issues and a sex addiction.

"Because the offending coincided with the administration of this drug, I'm prepared to accept your conduct was out of of character," Justice Michael Brett told the Supreme Court in Hobart via video link on Wednesday.

Burk was sentenced to 18 months' home detention having earlier pleaded to guilty to dishonestly acquiring the money.

Justice Brett said there was established medical evidence that a lack of impulse control was a side effect of sifrol.

He described the stealing as a "grave and ongoing" breach of trust which would have impacted the charity's capacity to help vulnerable people.

But Brett also said he was satisfied Burk would not re-offend as he was no longer taking the drug.

Burk, who worked in financial positions at various organisations, became CEO at Meal on Wheels Tasmania in February 2011.

He stole the money by claiming more than his entitlements through a salary sacrificing package.

"Anything more than a cursory look would have revealed (the offending)," Justice Brett said, describing the theft as systematic but not sophisticated.

Burk was caught when a financial officer at the charity became aware of discrepancies.

Justice Brett noted Burk had shown remorse by taking steps to borrow $20,000 and pay some of the money back.

He also said ongoing Parkinson's treatment would have been difficult to administer in prison, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Justice Brett ordered Burk to pay the majority of the stolen money back to Meals on Wheels and an insurance company.

Australian Associated Press