Conflict commissioner says MLA did not break rules
MLA Michel Samson had requested review of his own expenses
Nova Scotia's Conflict of Interest Commissioner has ruled that an MLA, who took the unprecedented step of requesting a review of his own expenses, did not break any rules.
Conflict of Interest Commissioner Merlin Nunn, a retired Supreme Court Justice, said in a letter dated Feb. 25 that after a lengthy meeting with Michel Samson, he concluded that the MLA was not in conflict over a Halifax rental property.
"There is no evidence whatsoever of any intention to disobey the established rules," stated Nunn in the letter.The Liberal MLA for Richmond, currently serving his fifth term, asked for the review following questions put to him by a CBC reporter on Feb. 21.
Samson, his wife and child have been renting a house in Halifax for six years.
He's claiming the maximum rental allowance of $1,470 per month for that house.
The house is owned by a close friend and political contributor.
Edgar Samson, who is not a relative of Samson's, owns several properties in Cape Breton but the south end home at the centre of the expense review request is the only property he owns in Halifax.
Under the rules of the Nova Scotia legislature, the house can't be a primary residence, nor can it profit any person "associated" with Samson.
Nunn said renting it from a personal friend is not a conflict of interest because there is no evidence the landlord received any special favours from the government of Nova Scotia.
In the letter, Nunn also directed comments toward the media.
"It is vitally important that our elected members of our legislature are not open to public denouncement on the whim of a media member who, without first pursuing the necessary facts, raises a suspicion which is akin to serious issues in one or more other jurisdictions, knowing it will be [a] scandal and embarrassment to the person involved," stated Nunn.
"We need the best members we can get and we must not put in their way a fear of baseless scandal and embarrassment brought on by an immature and sensational-oriented reporting."
The Speaker of the Legislature is also reviewing Samson's living expenses.
That review, to determine whether Samson's living expense requests have violated the rules of the legislature, has not yet been completed .