Former development authority head no longer has to pay restitution to province
Appeal court said trial judge 'went astray' in making $97,400 restitution order
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has quashed an order for Rhonda Kelly to pay back $97,400 to the provincial government.
Kelly pleaded guilty to submitting forged documents to the province between 2007 and 2010 while she was executive director of the now-defunct Cumberland Regional Development Authority (CRDA).
According to court documents, Kelly submitted forged expenses to the province to avoid reapplying for funding when community projects weren't completed in a single fiscal year.
Kelly never benefited personally
Kelly never benefited personally from the funds the province released to the CRDA.
All of it went toward eight existing community projects, including a YMCA fundraising strategy, youth retention, main street beautification in Amherst and the Pugwash Marina.
The trial judge sentenced Kelly to a 12-month conditional sentence, plus 12 months of probation.
She also ordered Kelly to pay $97,400 to the province, despite defence evidence that the 52-year-old was unable to pay back the money, being unemployed, in debt, and suffering "health issues."
Court documents say Kelly had launched a small bed and breakfast, which had yet to break even.
Inability to pay restitution
The appeal court said the trial judge "went astray" in making the restitution order.
"The failure to appropriately consider the offender's patent inability to pay such a restitution order reflects a legal error," wrote Justice Duncan Beveridge.
Beveridge cited precedent that says an inability to pay doesn't affect restitution orders involving a breach of trust, or where money is still unaccounted for.
But he said neither is true in this case, quashing the restitution order and giving leave to appeal her sentence.
Beveridge wrote that the province could still attempt to recover the funds from Kelly in a civil suit.
Kelly's lawyers and the provincial Department of Justice did not immediately respond to the CBC's request for comment.