MLA Zinck elects for trial by judge alone
A member of the Nova Scotia legislature who faces three charges stemming from the province's expense account scandal has elected to be tried by a Supreme Court judge alone.
Trevor Zinck, the independent MLA for Dartmouth North, was not in Halifax provincial court for the brief proceedings on Friday. His lawyer appeared on his behalf.
"Obviously we thought that was the best route to go," said Lyle Howe, the lawyer representing Zinck.
"I'm not going to get into the mechanics of what me and Mr. Zinck discussed."
Zinck is charged with one count each of theft over $5,000, fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust. A second charge of theft over $5,000 was dropped.
"In reviewing the evidence we noted that there was overlap between the two theft charges and we therefore thought that it would be appropriate to prosecute the conduct — that we allege as criminal — under one count of theft," Crown attorney Andrew Macdonald said outside court.
"The conduct that we are alleging is criminal hasn't changed."
Both the Crown and defence said they had a number of items to sort out before Zinck's next court date on June 21, including a list of potential witnesses that could include some members of the government.
"It's going to take some time to review the matter with Mr. Zinck and determine precisely what we want to do in terms of calling evidence," said Howe.
"We'd like the Crown's witnesses to take the stand at the preliminary and we can decide strategically what we want to do after that."
Formerly with the NDP, Zinck became an independent member of the legislature after he was kicked out of the government caucus over unpaid bills.
Charlie Parker, who conducted an initial investigation last year when he was the Speaker, alleged Zinck was reimbursed for certain office expenses — such as power and rent — but didn't immediately use the money to pay those bills.
The mounting pressures of running his constituency office without an assistant and the serious health problems of his father contributed to him drinking more and gambling online, Zinck told CBC News at the time.
Three former MLAs — Progressive Conservative Richard Hurlburt and Liberals Russell MacKinnon and David Wilson — face charges of fraud, uttering forged documents and breach of trust by a public officer.
The charges against the four politicians were laid in February after an eight-month-long RCMP investigation.
That investigation began after Auditor General Jacques Lapointe turned over his files to the Mounties after he looked at MLA spending between July 2006 and June 2009, detailing "excessive" and "unreasonable" claims by some of the province's 52 MLAs.
- An initial version of this story said Trevor Zinck had entered a not guilty plea to charges of theft, fraud and breach of trust. In fact, Zinck has not entered a plea to the charges.Oct 12, 2013 5:57 AM AT
With files from The Canadian Press