Richard Hurlburt knew how easy it was to steal from taxpayers and he knew
exactly when to do it.
Every one of the four false expense claims that now see him facing a
possible jail term was filed in the month of December.
In December, 2006, the former Conservative cabinet minister claimed
$3,508.92 for a big screen TV for his constituency office - it was actually
installed in his home.
In December, 2007, he claimed $7,410.00 for renovations to his constituency
office - work that was never done.
In December, 2008, he submitted another "receipt" for $5,367.50 for
renovations to his office, and you guessed it, there were no renovations.
That same December, Hurlburt submitted a "receipt" for $9,034.35 for a
Honda generator he said was installed in his home. There was just one problem.
There was no generator.
The "receipt" was actually only a quote. A much cheaper, $900 generator
wasn't installed until October 2009, three months after the Auditor-General
began snooping around MLA expense accounts.
You may have noticed a pattern here.
Every December, for at least three years, Hurlburt turned his taxpayers'
funded expense account into his personal piggy bank.
So why December?
Well, before the rules were changed, MLAs had a maximum amount they could
spend every month. If they didn't spend it they could carry it over to the next
month, and keep doing that until the end of year. But they weren't allowed to
carry the funds over into the new year. So, if an MLA didn't spend all of his or
her accumulated surplus in December, the money went back into government
It's an accounting system that's known as "use it or lose it" budgeting.
That's why when the MLA expense scandal broke, we found many of the
questionable items - the high-end cameras, the top of the line laptops, even
that $737 espresso maker - were on the MLA's December expense claims.
It was like finding extra money in your bank account and going out and
buying yourself an early Christmas present. Only this was the taxpayers' bank
As Hurlburt's lawyer, Stan MacDonald, said in court, Hurlburt took
advantage of an expense claims system that was poorly run.
The difference between Hurlburt and most of the other MLAs was, come
December, he turned "use it or lose it" into "steal it or lose it".