Nova Scotia

MLA expenses audit provokes mea culpas

On Monday, the Speaker's Office released the full list of questionable expenses after Premier Darrell Dexter ordered that it be made public.

On Monday, the Speaker's Office released the full list of questionable expenses after Premier Darrell Dexter ordered that it be made public.

Nova Scotia Auditor General Jacques Lapointe had refused to name individual politicians in his report on "excessive and unreasonable" expense claims, but numerous MLAs came forward of their own accord.

The full list, in alphabetical order:

Ron Chisholm, former Guysborough-Sheet Harbour MLA (PC)

$750 for a GPS unit.  

He also charged $1,200 for internet service.

Keith Colwell (Liberal), Preston

$252 for 3-D art, $2,665 for a projector and $1,763 for a video camera.

Keith Colwell said the money for the art was repaid in full after Lapointe said his purchase of 3-D art from his brother was inappropriate.

"We donated these items to various community organizations looking for items for silent auctions and raffles," he said.

Colwell also bought a projector and a video camera for his constituency office — both of which the auditor general cited in his report. Colwell said he is waiting for instructions from the Speaker on what to do about that money.

Darrell Dexter (NDP), Cole Harbour

$2,150 for a digital camera and $5,501 for two laptop computers.

Premier Darrell Dexter's office called reporters on Wednesday to say that Dexter was among those singled out by the auditor general for his spending practices.

Though Jacques Lapointe's report said $5,501 was spent on one laptop, Shawn Fuller, a spokesman for Dexter, said two computers had been purchased with that money. The premier's office said on Wednesday they could not produce receipts for both items.

"The premier does not intend to debate whether the expenses were reasonable, rather, he simply intends to repay them," Fuller said.

Bill Dooks, former Eastern Shore MLA (PC)

$6,234 for website design and programming.

Bill Dooks, the former minister of tourism, culture and heritage, spent the money on a website for his constituency office. He said Thursday that he is waiting for confirmation from the Speaker's office to clarify whether he has to pay the money back to the province.

"The expense to create this website was considered as an appropriate use of funds at that time," Dooks said. "Once a decision is reached, I will take appropriate action."

Howard Epstein (NDP), Halifax Chebucto

$2,969 for books.

Howard Epstein said he spent nearly $3,000 in books between 2006 and 2009 that were deemed "outside the norm" though allowable under the rules. He said one-quarter of the books were giveaways at high school graduations and the rest were related to politics.

Epstein did not pay back the money. He said Thursday he will stop claiming political books as an expense.

Wayne Gaudet (Liberal), Clare

$1,260 for parking lot sanding.

Wayne Gaudet paid his brother's company for the parking lot sanding at his constituency office — an expense the auditor general said was inappropriate.

"If I owe money to the Speaker's office, I will pay it back," said Gaudet. "I will follow whatever recommendations the Speaker makes in my particular situation."

Len Goucher, former Bedford-Birchcove MLA (PC)

$150 for three MP3 players.

Len Goucher said Friday he bought the devices for schools in his constituency. He said he recently contacted the Speaker's office about the expenses but hasn't heard back.

"I never, in any way, used these items for personal use. I believe they were used for a fundraiser to directly benefit the students," he said in a statement.

Richard Hurlburt (PC), Yarmouth

$8,000 for a generator and $3,070 for a television.

On Wednesday, Richard Hurlburt said he purchased one of the three power generators highlighted in Lapointe's report. He said he bought it two years ago to assist local organizations — including a senior citizens' complex down the street from his home — in the event of a power outage in his community.

He said it had never been used for personal purposes and he paid back the $3,000 installation fee for the generator last year. At a news conference Thursday, he said he followed the rules at the time and didn't have to pay back the money for the generator itself.

When contacted by CBC News, residents of the senior citizens' complex said it was nice of Hurlburt to think of them, but they had never heard of the generator being available to them.

Hurlburt apologized on Friday. In a statement, he said he repaid the full amount on Thursday and would donate the generator to a local community group.

"I am sorry for expensing an item that I now know was not an appropriate claim based on the legislature's internal economy board regulations," he said. "I regret how this has been perceived and have paid back the full amount."

On Monday, the full list revealed that Hurburt also bought a 42-inch television worth $2,499, which he paid $579 to have installed. The television was installed in his constituency office, until it was destroyed by flood waters last year.

Hurlburt was not available for comment. He was on his way to Florida for a vacation.

Rodney MacDonald, former Inverness MLA (PC)

$3,250 for a projector screen and accessories.

Former premier Rodney MacDonald said in a statement Thursday that the projector screen had been purchased for business presentations in his riding. He said he has contacted the Speaker's office to seek clarification on whether he has to pay the money back.

"It was, and still is, being used for business presentations in the community by community members," he said.

John MacDonell (NDP), Hants East

$13,445 for custom-made office furniture and $2,600 for a printer.

Premier Darrell Dexter's office revealed on Wednesday that Natural Resources Minister John MacDonell had bought the custom-made desks and bookcases for his constituency office. MacDonell bought the pieces from local craftsmen over several years.

An official in the premier's office said MacDonell repaid the sum last year when it was pointed out that the expenses might be "outside the norm."

"I would definitely like to apologize," MacDonell said Thursday. "It wasn't my intent. My intent was to get something local, which I support in a big way."

Charlie Parker (NDP), Pictou West

$790 for a model boat office display.

Speaker Charlie Parker bought a replica of the ship Hector from a local artisan, for his constituency office.

"I made the purchase under the existing guidelines but because the auditor general says it falls outside the norm of purchases, I will repay the cost," he said.

Leonard Preyra (NDP), Halifax Citadel

$373 for airfare.

The airfare was for a family member, and backbencher Leonard Preyra said he reimbursed the money after Lapointe said it was a personal item. Preyra said he made the claim in error because of confusion over the receipt issued by the airline.

"We assumed that the $373 was the cost of a … one-way ticket to Ottawa," he said. "As it turns out, it was a return ticket and we don't know how that happened."

Michel Samson (Liberal), Richmond

$1,274 for internet services.

Michel Samson said he filed expense claims for monthly internet services in his apartment because he used it for constituency business. He said he had been told by the former director of the Speaker's office that this was acceptable, before the auditor general ruled that amount should have been covered through the monthly allotment for MLAs apartments.

"On my own initiative, I offered to repay the amount and was told by the Speaker's office that they were awaiting instructions," Samson said Wednesday.

Judy Streatch, former Chester-St. Margaret's Bay MLA (PC)

$738 for an espresso machine.

Judy Streatch, former minister of community services, said Friday the machine is in storage and she's waiting to hear from the Speaker's office on whether to reimburse taxpayers for the expense.

"Certainly there was no misrepresentation," she told CBC News. "My integrity is intact, as it has always been in my mind, and that's what's most important to me."

Dave Wilson (Liberal), Glace Bay

$400 for patio furniture.

Dave Wilson said the receipt for his patio furniture was among several that were submitted and processed at once. He said it was a mistake, and he repaid the amount last year when he was approached about the claim.