No alarm bells ring­ing over Cape Bre­ton MLAs’ ex­pense claims

Cape Breton Post - - Our Community - BY CHRIS HAYES chayes@cb­post.com

SYD­NEY — Al­fie MacLeod, who ranked sec­ond among 51 cur­rent and for­mer Nova Sco­tia MLAs on a list of ex­pensed con­stituency and equip­ment as­sets, said Thurs­day much of his $ 33,150 to­tal went to set­ting up a con­stituency of­fice in his Cape Bre­ton West rid­ing.

“ It was all ap­proved,” he said Thurs­day.

“ I did not re­ceive a call from the au­di­tor gen­eral or the Speak­ers of­fice on any of it. The of­fice is here, it is a func­tional of­fice. I don’t think it’s elab­o­rate. If peo­ple are up­set, that was never my in­ten­tion. My in­ten­tion was to have an of­fice that would be ac­ces­si­ble.”

MacLeod said he ne­go­ti­ated the best deal with the land­lord that he could for the Howie Cen­tre of­fice which was the only suit­able lo­ca­tion he could find.

MLAs elected be­fore 2006 would al­ready have a con­stituency of­fice and wouldn’t show those ex­penses in the au­dit in­ven­tory re­leased Wed­nes­day which cov­ered the time from 2006 to 2009, said MacLeod.

For­mer PC MLA and cab­i­net min­is­ter Len Goucher, who rep­re­sented Bed­ford-Birch Cove, led the list of ex­penses with a to­tal of $ 38,694.

Leg­is­la­ture Speaker Char­lie Parker re­leased au­di­tor gen­eral Jac­ques La­pointe’s full list of po­lit­i­cal ex­penses from con­stituency claims and in­clud­ing elec­tronic tech­nol­ogy from July 2006 to June 2009 Wed­nes­day. Those ex­penses weren’t among the in­ap­pro­pri­ate and ex­ces­sive ones that were noted in a re­port by the prov­ince’s au­di­tor gen­eral last week. The Speaker later re­leased the names of all politi­cians whose ex­penses were deemed in­ap­pro­pri­ate and ex­ces­sive by the au­di­tor gen­eral.

PC MLA Ce­cil Clarke in Cape Bre­ton North, who had a to­tal of $ 20,044 in ex­penses on the list of ex­pensed as­sets, noted some of the pur­chases on his list occurred re­plac­ing ag­ing com­puter equip­ment in the years cov­ered by the au­dit.

Clarke said he didn’t re­ceive any calls from the au­di­tor gen­eral or Speaker’s of­fice con­cern­ing the ex­penses.

“ I am more than happy to clar­ify any ex­pen­di­ture as­so­ci­ated with cap­i­tal or con­stituency claims in my of­fice.”

Four Cape Bre­ton MLAs were on a list of those who had re­ceived du­pli­cate pay­ments for items.

Clarke said he will re­pay $ 341 for du­pli­cate pay­ments for cer­tifi­cate pa­per, cards, three framed pic­tures and 36 mugs. He noted that he claimed the ex­penses twice through an ac­count­ing er­ror and also tried to pay them twice but the trans­ac­tions weren’t prop­erly re­flected in ac­count­ing pro­ce­dures.

“ It was a mis­take with the pa­per work,” he said.

Clarke noted he had to call the Speak­ers of­fice to ask if there were any prob­lems with his ex­penses be­fore find­ing out about the du­pli­cate pay­ments. He also raised con­cerns that the Speaker was com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Premier Dar­rel Dex­ter on the is­sue but not with the other party leaders.

MacLeod said af­ter con­tact­ing the Speak­ers of­fice, he re­al­ized he mis­tak­enly sub­mit­ted bills twice for $ 197 for pre­sen­ta­tion fold­ers and of­fice clean­ing, the du­pli­cate pay­ments hap­pened through a cler­i­cal er­ror and he has al­ready re­paid it mi­nus sev­eral un­der­pay­ments to him.

Lib­eral MLA Dave Wil­son, who rep­re­sents Glace Bay, didn’t know how he mis­tak­enly twice claimed $ 185 for cer­tifi­cates and ads on place­mats for a Glace Bay restau­rant but planned to re­pay it as soon as he re­ceives of­fi­cial no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Lib­eral MLA Michel Sam­son who rep­re­sents Rich­mond, said he is ready to re­pay $ 177 he re­ceived twice for dig­i­tal ca­ble ser­vices and a com­puter anti-virus pro­gram but has to see the doc­u­ments in his Hal­i­fax of­fice to con­firm the er­rors. He noted there were two in­stances of dou­ble pay­ments among an es­ti­mated 450 claims he has made over the years cov­ered by the au­dit.

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