A former Nova Scotia cabinet minister who pleaded guilty to charges in the province’s spending scandal committed fraud totalling just over $25,000 between December, 2006 and December, 2008.
An agreed statement of facts presented in provincial Supreme Court on Thursday at Richard Hurlburt’s sentencing hearing in Yarmouth says he submitted four claims for expenses that were not incurred in his constituency work.
Court was also told that Mr. Hurlburt reimbursed the Speaker’s Office $11,073 in February, 2010 and $14,247 last month.
The false claims include one for a $9,000 Honda generator that was not purchased.
Two other expense claims total nearly $13,000 for renovations to his constituency office. Mr. Hurlburt was reimbursed more than $5,000 for renovations that were not done.
He was also reimbursed more than $3,500 for the purchase and installation of a 40-inch LCD television at his home.
Mr. Hurlburt, 62, pleaded guilty in April to fraud and breach of trust.
He is the second former member of the legislature to plead guilty in the scandal.
Former Liberal Dave Wilson was sentenced in April to nine months in jail for defrauding the public purse of $61,000 to feed a gambling addiction.
Independent member Trevor Zinck and former Liberal Russell MacKinnon also face charges related to the scandal that broke following a 2010 report by auditor general Jacques Lapointe.
Mr. MacKinnon has pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud, breach of trust and uttering forged documents. His trial is scheduled to start in March.
A preliminary hearing wrapped up last month for Mr. Zinck and his lawyer said at the time it could be a year before the case goes to trial.
Mr. Hurlburt was a cabinet minister in the Progressive Conservative governments of former premiers John Hamm and Rodney MacDonald, serving in a number of portfolios including natural resources and energy.
First elected in 1999, he was returned to the legislature by voters in the riding of Yarmouth in 2003 and 2006.
Mr. Hurlburt was one of four Nova Scotia politicians charged in February, 2011 after Lapointe asked the RCMP to investigate allegations of inappropriate use of constituency allowances.
Mr. Hurlburt quit politics soon after the report was released, but not before initially defending the purchase of the generator as a valid expense. Court heard he later purchased a cheaper generator and had it installed at his home.
At the time he said it could be used in emergencies by a nearby seniors’ home and for ground search and rescue teams.
After pleading guilty, Mr. Hurlburt publicly apologized to his family and constituents, saying he took “full responsibility” for his actions.
Nova Scotia’s constituency expense scandal broke about five years after another one erupted in Newfoundland and Labrador. Those cases ended with four politicians, a senior civil servant and a businessman sentenced to jail time.
In Nova Scotia, the response from the NDP government has been to implement changes to the constituency allowance system to improve transparency.
Under the changes, the 52 members of the legislature must publicly post their expenses online.
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