Ex-MLA MacKinnon denies doing anything illegal
Russell MacKinnon speaks out for first time since breach of trust conviction
Former Nova Scotia MLA Russell MacKinnon may have pleaded guilty to breach of trust but he tells CBC News that he doesn't feel he's done anything illegal.
MacKinnon stopped testifying at his trial on Friday and pleaded guilty to breach of trust for his role in the province's spending scandal.
In an interview Wednesday, he said he followed the rules and didn’t do anything wrong.
"I didn’t defraud the government of five cents, not a penny," said MacKinnon.
George MacKeigan testified as a Crown witness last Thursday in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court at MacKinnon's trial.
MacKeigan, who worked as an executive assistant in MacKinnon's Sydney River constituency office from May to August 2006, said he was asked to sign three blank receipts that were submitted to the Speaker's Office by MacKinnon.
The Crown said the three receipts totalled $9,900 for vacation pay and work at the constituency office that included moving furniture and the packing and shredding of documents.
MacKeigan said he never got the money, but received a tax form in 2010 informing him that he owed the provincial government for income he didn't claim in May of that year.
MacKinnon told CBC News that MacKeigan had asked him to hold on to that money until his work contract finished.
"He was still on the payroll and he wanted his top-up money all in one lump sum because he was heading out of province and he wanted it all together. So I agreed, I held onto it for him, set it aside. My former constituency association secretary was in the room at the time and she’ll certainly confirm that this is what he asked me to do," he said.
"I was of the understanding that I did [pay him] and you arrive four or five years later and all of a sudden somebody is saying ‘You didn't give me the cash that you said you were going to.’"
MacKinnon also spoke about his guilty plea last Friday.
"I don’t know what happened. I just don’t know what happened. All I know is, people’s memories seem to be a little different and on that point of law I said to myself and I said to my lawyer, ‘Yes, legally, that’s the point.’ If he’s now denying it, there’s nothing more I can do."
When asked about whether the conviction should cost him his pension, MacKinnon said he deserves that money, since he paid into the plan and worked very hard for his constituents.
He said he's entitled to the money just as much as anyone else who pays into a pension plan.
MacKinnon is currently serving a four-month house arrest sentence, given in a plea bargain with the Crown.
MacKinnon 1 of 4 MLAs charged
MacKinnon was one of four politicians charged in February 2011 following an investigation by Nova Scotia's auditor general into constituency allowance spending. He was the first to contest the charges — two of the three other politicians charged have been sentenced.
Former Liberal Dave Wilson was sentenced last April after admitting to defrauding the public purse of nearly $61,000. He was released from custody in August after serving four months of a nine-month sentence.
Richard Hurlburt, a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, was sentenced last July to a year of house arrest after pleading guilty to charges of fraud and breach of trust.
Independent member Trevor Zinck — the only sitting member among those charged — is charged with theft over $5,000, fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust. He is to go to trial in June.