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Independent MLA Trevor Zinck is charged with fraud, theft and breach of trust. ((CBC))

One member of the Nova Scotia legislature and three former provincial politicians face criminal charges following an investigation into constituency expenses.

Independent MLA Trevor Zinck and former members Richard Hurlburt, Russell MacKinnon and David Wilson all face charges of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust.

Zinck also faces two counts of theft over $5,000.

All four are due in court on April 20.

LIST OF CHARGES:

Trevor Zinck:

  • Fraud exceeding $5,000 (one count).
  • Theft over $5,000 (two counts).
  • Breach of trust by a public officer (one count).

Richard Hurlburt:

  • Fraud exceeding $5,000 (one count).
  • Uttering a forged document (three counts).
  • Breach of trust by a public officer (one count).

Russell MacKinnon:

  • Fraud exceeding $5,000 (one count).
  • Uttering a forged document (eight counts).
  • Breach of trust by a public officer (one count).

David Wilson:

  • Fraud exceeding $5,000 (one count).
  • Uttering a forged document (31 counts).
  • Breach of trust by a public officer (one count).

The Nova Scotia RCMP's commercial crimes section announced the charges on Monday after an eight-month investigation.

Insp. Jim MacDougall, officer in charge of the unit, said investigators spent "countless" hours reviewing thousands of documents over the past months. He said they notified three of the men personally and the other through his lawyer.

Premier Darrell Dexter said the charges reflect badly on all politicians and further erodes public confidence in politics, making it more difficult to encourage people to vote, run as candidates or support parties.   

"Frankly, I'm not just disappointed, I'm angry because we all have to live with the consequences," he said.

PC MLA Chris d'Entremont said it was a "sad day for Nova Scotians. They should be angry about what we're hearing today."

In a press release, Zinck said his constituency office would remain open to serve the public.

"I would like to inform the community of Dartmouth North that this situation has not been a distraction that had prevented me from performing my responsibilities as a representative of and for the people," he said.

A year ago, Auditor General Jacques Lapointe released a report that cited "excessive" and "unreasonable" claims by some of the province's 52 MLAs. Examples included televisions, custom furniture and a generator.

A public furor resulted. Hurlburt, a PC, and Wilson, a Liberal, resigned. Zinck was ejected from the NDP caucus and now sits as an Independent.

MacKinnon, a former Liberal cabinet minister, was an MLA until 2006.

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Former PC MLA Richard Hurlburt resigned after apologizing for spending $8,000 to buy a generator. ((CBC))

Hurlburt resigned his seat one year ago after admitting that he billed taxpayers $8,000 to have a generator installed in his home. He also spent more than $3,000 to buy and install a 40-inch LCD television in his constituency office.

Wilson, who resigned as MLA for Glace Bay, was also under scrutiny for payments allegedly made to his constituency assistants. He never explained why he resigned and disappeared from the public eye. 

In an interview with CBC News last March, Zinck admitted to drinking and gambling problems after being kicked out of government caucus over unpaid bills.

The mounting pressures of running his constituency office without an assistant and the serious health problems of his father contributed to him drinking more and gambling online, Zinck told CBC.

Former speaker of the house Charlie Parker, who did an initial investigation last year, alleged Zinck was reimbursed for certain office expenses, such as power and rent, but didn't immediately use the money to pay those bills.

Parker alleged there were "irregularities" with five transactions, amounting to a few thousand dollars.

Last May, Lapointe referred five cases to the RCMP for a criminal investigation. He handed investigators a sixth file a month later.

RCMP are not charging two of the people they investigated, and thus are not naming them.

Last spring, the provincial legislature voted to revamp the MLA expense system.