Expense scandal widens

Nova Scotia’s auditor general says he spoke to police while conducting a second, more-sweeping forensic investigation into the expenses claimed by members of the province’s legislature.

Jacques Lapointe

Jacques Lapointe

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s auditor general says he spoke to police while conducting a second, more-sweeping forensic investigation into the expenses claimed by members of the province’s legislature.

Jacques Lapointe will release his long-awaited follow-up report on Tuesday into a scandal that has touched all three parties and caused the government to announce revamped rules following widespread criticism of provincial politicians.

In an interview Monday, Lapointe said the forensic audit will include an examination of possible illegal activities but he wouldn’t elaborate.

“It involves an investigation into possible illegalities so naturally, as a matter of course, I would talk to police, talk to legal counsel,” he said. “That much I did and that much I can confirm.”

Lapointe’s first audit was released February and it examined a three-year period from July 2006 to June 2009. The audit revealed questionable purchases from constituency expense accounts, including big-screen TVs, an espresso machine, custom built furniture, computers, digital cameras and even a video game.

Lapointe’s latest audit is a more specific examination of a group of legislature members, which he said he launched after receiving new information.

“It was a number of different sources — people who got in touch with us and forwarded us information,” Lapointe said.

The auditor has never confirmed who was being investigated and said it’s possible he may not release names on Tuesday.

Premier Darrell Dexter has said he will release names if Lapointe provides them in his report.

Two politicians have quit since Lapointe’s first audit.

David Wilson, the former Liberal member for Glace Bay, has never revealed his reason for stepping down. However, during the first audit it was revealed he spent money on patio furniture. Wilson has said he voluntarily repaid the $400 for the furniture last year.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil has said Wilson was asked by Lapointe to meet with him on Feb. 26, but declined.

Richard Hurlburt, the former Conservative member for Yarmouth, also quit after being criticized for spending $8,000 on a generator that he installed at his own home, which he initially said was for the use of a nearby home for senior citizens. In his resignation letter, Hurlburt apologized for “for this misstep” and repaid the money.

Lapointe confirmed Trevor Zinck, an Independent member of the legislature for Dartmouth North, was one of the politicians included in the second audit but he wouldn’t discuss details.

He declined to comment on the refusal of the House of Commons to allow auditor general Sheila Fraser to conduct a similar audit of federal MPs.

“I guess I shouldn’t get too involved in what’s happening federally. The facts are so different there and the situation is so complex.”

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