Probation for former CAO
A gambling addiction plus a severe case of depression and anxiety were taken into consideration when the court sentenced the Municipality of West Hants’ former chief administrative officer on Monday.
Cheryl Chislett, 55, had previously pleaded guilty to assaulting her husband, Richard Chislett, with a hammer, and fraud in excess of $5,000.
Crown prosecutor Bill Ferguson and defence lawyer Chris Manning presented Judge Claudine MacDonald with a joint recommendation, asking for a year’s probation for Chistlett.
“She’s pled guilty to two very dissimilar offences,” said Manning, noting Chislett had no prior criminal record.
On June 21, 2014, “police were dispatched to a domestic disturbance in progress,” said Ferguson. The court was told Chislett’s husband was out on the deck playing with a grandchild, when she approached him from behind and struck him with a hammer. He was taken to the hospital and later released.
The court learned that Chislett does not have a good recollection of events prior to the assault.
Manning said his client knew her husband took the hammer away from her and, while she’s not sure what happened that day, she “does accept full responsibility for what she did.”
A doctor’s report was referred to several times during the sentencing.
“In the report, (Chislett’s doctor) describes that in the weeks leading up to the event of the hammer incident, she was experiencing significant depression and anxiety. She found it intolerable to go to work,” said Manning, who said that could tie into her other charge of defrauding the municipality.
Both Manning and Ferguson noted that Chislett’s husband has stood beside her throughout the court proceedings.
“Clearly, she has a remarkably supportive and caring husband who is able to look at the full picture and not just the charges before the court,” said Manning. “Mr. Chislett remains firmly behind his wife, as does his sister and other family members.”
The fraud charge was laid in April 2015. The municipality noticed irregularities in its financial records in 2014 and requested the RCMP investigate. They also had a forensic audit conducted. Chislett had been the municipality’s chief administrative officer.
“Chislett is noted to have a gambling addiction — an addiction that was out of control,” said Manning. “That certainly is, in large part, the rationale we’d expect of why money was taken from her employer.”
The Crown listed several items that had been found through the audit. Most charges were under $1,000 and were listed as personal expenses except for one charge, a $10,000 cheque made payable to a law firm in Halifax. Chislett was sentenced to one year of probation, plus a $100 victim surcharge fine, which is to be paid by Aug. 25.