Beyond the Headlines

From defiance to contrition

Posted: Apr 13, 2012 10:29 AM ET Last Updated: Apr 13, 2012 10:29 AM ET
What a difference a couple of years makes.
Two years ago, then Conservative MLA Richard Hurlburt stood next to then Conservative leader Karen Casey (now a Liberal MLA) to vigorously and defiantly defend his right to spend $8,000 of taxpayers' money to install a generator at his home, and another $3,000 for a big screen TV.
"I represent the people of Yarmouth and as long as I'm their member I will represent the people of Yarmouth," he said. "This was deemed a product that was needed in our community, and that product is there for the citizens of my community if there's a disaster or anything."
Right from the start his explanations were suspect. Hurlburt claimed he installed the generator, in part, so he could invite seniors living in a neighbouring apartment complex over to his house in case of a power failure. It turns out this was the first the seniors had heard of his kind offer, and since they had their own generator they didn't need to go anywhere.
Then there was the flat screen TV. Hurlburt claimed it was for his constituency office, but had been damaged when his office suffered water damage. But CBC News couldn't find anyone who could remember seeing it there.
Following those stories Hurlburt resigned while vacationing in Florida. His letter acknowledged his "deep regret for his error in judgement".
It turns out Hurlburt's actions were more than simple errors in judgement, they were illegal. And after the RCMP got involved Hurlburt found he was not just accountable to the voters of Yarmouth, but to the laws that govern all of us.
Thursday, a quiet and contrite Hurlburt told a judge he was guilty of defrauding taxpayers and breach of trust.
Outside the courtroom the old Hurlburt swagger was gone as he apologized to his family, to his constituents and to the people of Nova Scotia. It was the first time Hurlburt has spoken publicly since he resigned from the legislature two years ago. He did not take questions from reporters.
There's a good chance we'll see another apology next week.
Dave Wilson, the former Liberal MLA for Glace Bay, is scheduled to appear in court to find out what sentence the Crown will be seeking for his crimes. Wilson stole thousands of taxpayers dollars by submitting false expense claims and he did it for years.
Hurlburt and Wilson are now convicted criminals.
But you have to wonder, as with almost all the courtroom apologies we hear from defendants before they are sentenced, if they are truly sorry for what they did, or merely sorry they were caught.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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