Nova Scotia

Ex-MLA offered staff bonus for buying his used car

A woman who worked for a former Liberal cabinet minister charged in Nova Scotia's spending scandal says he offered her a bonus to buy his used car.
Russell MacKinnon on his first day of trial. (CBC)

A woman who worked for a former Liberal cabinet minister charged in Nova Scotia's spending scandal says he offered her a bonus to buy his used car.

Nicole Campbell says she did secretarial work for Russell MacKinnon at his Sydney River constituency office from January 2005 until June 2006.

In 2005 Campbell said her car kept breaking down. The court heard on Wednesday that MacKinnon told her he would pay her a $3,000 bonus if she bought his 1995 Chrysler Intrepid. She agreed.

In September 2005, MacKinnon submitted three receipts to the legislature, the first for $1,000 and two others for $1,200 each. The reason given for the submitted receipts was for secretarial services and expenses. But Campbell said she never saw any money for the offered $3,000 bonus.

The court heard in 2006, two months after Campbell left her secretarial job, that MacKinnon submitted a bill to pay her $1,500 for vacation pay and secretarial services. Campbell told the court she didn't see any of that money either.

Campbell told the court she was let go after MacKinnon, who left the Liberals and sat as an Independent, was unsuccessful in his bid to seek the Progressive Conservative nomination in the riding of Cape Breton West.

She says after her employment ended, MacKinnon invited her to his home in mid-June 2006 where he paid her $200 or $300.

She told the Nova Scotia Supreme Court that she could not recall the precise amount nor whether the payment was made by cheque or in cash.

Campbell also told the court about an encounter with MacKinnon in the summer of 2010, after the RCMP began investigating several MLAs including MacKinnon. 

She said he came to her home with a thank you letter he said he found buried in some files. Campbell said that thank you letter included some money MacKinnon said he forget to pay her. He then handed her an envelope with $2,400 cash.

The former MLA for Cape Breton West faces eight counts of fraud, forgery and breach of trust for claims from 2005 and 2006.

MacKinnon has pleaded not guilty.

On Tuesday, the Crown began laying out its case against MacKinnon as the trial began in Halifax.

Jocelyn Scallion, the former director of administration at the Speaker's Office, was called by the Crown to describe the types of members' expenses that were administered by the office.

Expense receipts were entered as evidence that Scallion said were submitted by MacKinnon from 2003 to 2006.

Asked in each case whether or not the receipts were a cause for concern under the rules governing members expenses, Scallion replied no.

MacKinnon was one of four politicians charged in February 2011 following an investigation by the province's auditor general into constituency allowance spending.

Former MLAs Dave Wilson and Richard Hurlburt both entered guilty pleas to charges they defrauded taxpayers. Wilson was given a nine-month jail sentence.

The only sitting MLA charged — Trevor Zinck, the independent member for Dartmouth North — is scheduled to go on trial in June.


With files from The Canadian Press, Brian Dubreuil