Sudbury

Two former West Nipissing managers charged with fraud

Ontario Provincial Police have charged three men with fraud in connection with alleged financial irregularities involving the municipality of West Nipissing.

Municipality says charges relate to construction work it alleges was never completed

Former municipal employees Marc Gagnon, Luc Rifou, and private contractor Steve Morrison have each been charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000 along with several other charges. (Shutterstock / Kuzma)

Ontario Provincial Police have charged three men with fraud in connection with alleged financial irregularities involving the municipality of West Nipissing.

Former employees Marc Gagnon, Luc Rifou, and private contractor Steve Morrison have each been been charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000.

They also each face the following charges: fraud on government, uttering forged documents, and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.

One of the accused, Steve Morrison, is currently involved in a $450,000 lawsuit with the municipality over allegedly billing the town for roadwork that his company, MX Constructors, did not complete.

Morrison is also the current chair of the West Nipissing Police Services Board. He could not be reached for comment.

Town says it discovered irregularities

West Nipissing CAO Jay Barbeau told CBC News the municipality first began its investigation in late 2015.

"We found a pattern with one contractor only," Barbeau said.

"On a few of the projects we uncovered that payments were approved and made where we found out the work was not yet performed or not performed at all," he said.

Barbeau said the municipality fired two senior managers in charge of Public Works as a result.​

Marc Gagnon, who was director of operations, and Luc Rifou, who was manager of public works, also face an additional charge of uttering forged documents.

Fired director now CAO of French River

Gagnon has since been hired as the Chief Administrative Officer for the municipality of French River.

All three accused are expected to appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Sturgeon Falls on October 6.

West Nipissing mayor Joanne Savage said the last few months have been a roller coaster for the community.

"These are long-term employees that we've known for many years. We known their families, their friends. In a small community everyone knows everyone," she said.

"But if you want to uphold integrity you need to do what you need to do."

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Edited/packaged by Casey Stranges

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