Hurl­burt quits over spending scan­dal


HAL­I­FAX — Nova Sco­tia’s spending al­lowance scan­dal has claimed the po­lit­i­cal ca­reer of one of its cen­tral fig­ures with the res­ig­na­tion of vet­eran Tory Richard Hurl­burt, who ad­mit­ted buy­ing a gen­er­a­tor and big-screen tele­vi­sion at pub­lic ex­pense.

The news broke abruptly Tues­day in a short news release from the Con­ser­va­tive party on be­half of Hurl­burt, who is va­ca­tion­ing in Florida and un­avail­able for com­ment.

The state­ment didn’t men­tion why the 10-year vet­eran was step­ping down as mem­ber for Yar­mouth rid­ing.

But in a news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing a cau­cus meet­ing, in­terim party leader Karen Casey ex­plained that Hurl­burt made a per­sonal de­ci­sion that she ac­cepted.

“He be­lieves that it is in the best in­ter­ests of the con­stituency of Yar­mouth, as well as his fam­ily and the cau­cus and me as leader, that he step down,” she said via speak­er­phone from Truro, N.S., dur­ing a Hal­i­fax news con­fer­ence.

Hurl­burt, a for­mer Con­ser­va­tive cab­i­net min­is­ter, was widely crit­i­cized af­ter the prov­ince’s au­di­tor gen­eral re­leased a re­port last week that showed he spent $7,995 in pub­lic money on a gen­er­a­tor that was in­stalled in his home.

He ini­tially de­fended the pur­chase as a valid ex­pense, say­ing it could used in emer­gen­cies by a nearby se­niors’ home and for ground search and res­cue teams. He later apol­o­gized and said he had re­im­bursed tax­pay­ers.

On Mon­day, the Speaker’s Of­fice re­leased a list of ques­tion­able ex­penses that showed Hurl­burt also charged tax­pay­ers $2,499 for a 40-inch tele­vi­sion and $579 for in­stalling it. He didn’t men­tion the tele­vi­sion when he ad­mit­ted buy­ing the gen­er­a­tor.

Casey said Hurl­burt was “truly sorry” for what he rec­og­nized as an er­ror in judg­ment in re­gard to his ex­pense claims.

“Al­though the in­tent was hon­ourable, the per­cep­tion was ques­tion­able and I think that would be what he con­sid­ered to be an er­ror in judg­ment on his part,” she said.

Casey added that she couldn’t speak to why Hurl­burt didn’t re­sign when his ex­pen­di­tures first came to light.

She also de­flected ques­tions about her own cred­i­bil­ity as in­terim party leader in light of ad­mit­ting that she knew about Hurl­burt’s ad­di­tional ex­penses but chose not to say any­thing when she ini­tially in­formed re­porters about the gen­er­a­tor.

Casey said she doesn’t feel the need to re­sign be­cause she be­lieves it is up to in­di­vid­ual mem­bers to come for­ward about their ex­penses.

She said she didn’t try to with­hold in­for­ma­tion or mis­lead the pub­lic.

“Could that have been done dif­fer­ently? Ab­so­lutely, but that was the path I chose to take,” she said.

Speak­ing on be­half of cau­cus, Tory mem­ber Ce­cil Clarke said the mat­ter of whether Casey should re­sign is not an is­sue mov­ing for­ward.

“I can tell you that our cau­cus has con­firmed to our pres­i­dent that our leader is our leader,” said Clarke.

Premier Dar­rell Dex­ter has promised to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to strengthen spending con­trols, such as re­plac­ing the all-party board that reg­u­lates mem­bers’ ex­penses with a com­mis­sion that will meet pub­licly.

Mean­while, be­cause of steps taken last fall to elim­i­nate it, Hurl­burt won’t be el­i­gi­ble for a $45,000 sep­a­ra­tion pay­ment that used to go to de­feated or re­tir­ing politi­cians.

He will even­tu­ally be el­i­gi­ble for a $41,815 an­nual pen­sion, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures on the Speaker’s Of­fice web­site.

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