by Meridith Levinson

A CIO Commits Suicide

Jun 11, 20083 mins

The vice president of informational services and operational change management for the United Way of Greater Toronto took her life last month after she was confronted with evidence that linked her to embezzling at least $600,000 from a former employer, according to an article published yesterday in The Globe and Mail.

At the time of her death, Janet Donio was being investigated for engaging in potentially fraudulent activity when she was CIO of the Council on Ontario Universities, a lobbying group that employed her before she joined the United Way in February 2007. The Council’s auditor, Deloitte & Touche, discovered accounting irregularities in March 2008, after a replacement for Donio came on board. The irregularities involved the payment of between $600,000 and $700,000 for services that were never produced and that were “allegedly being siphoned off by Ms. Donio,” according to The Globe and Mail.

Donio, 56, was confronted with evidence from the investigation on May 5, when senior executives with the United Way placed her on paid leave. Donio was found dead in her Toronto home the next day.

The investigation also uncovered that Donio had falsified certain academic credentials—specifically, a bachelor’s degree from Lakehead University in Ontario and a PhD in cognitive science from MIT.

Toronto police involved with the case closed it today, according to The Globe and Mail. The police never pressed charges against Donio because they were waiting for Deloitte & Touche to complete the audit on behalf of the Council on Ontario Universities. The Globe and Mail reports that the Council plans to send the completed audit to the police in a few days.

Donio is not the first CIO to be involved in white collar crime. Nor is she likely to be the last. Other CIOs who’ve been charged with fraud include HealthSouth’s Kenneth Livesay and restaurant chain Buca’s John Motschenbacher. Livesay was sentenced to six months of home detention, fined $10,000 and forced to give up $750,000 from his gains at HealthSouth for falsifying his company’s SEC filings. Motschenbacher was sentenced to six months of home detention, fined $25,000 and forced to pay Buca $145,000 for soliciting and obtaining illegal payments from vendors.

I don’t know what to make of this strange news. It’s disappointing to read about yet another high-level executive defrauding a company, and it’s sad that someone would rather die than live, even if one has to face the personally damaging consequences of her actions. What meaning or lesson should IT leaders draw from this story?