Hurlburt sentencing set for July 27

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By Belle Hatfield
For the Vanguard


The man who was billed as a fighter when he ran for the MLA’s seat is fighting another battle –this one to stay out of jail.

Former Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt will have to wait until Friday, July 27, to learn his fate. After a four-hour sentencing hearing in Yarmouth on Thursday on charges stemming from the MLA expense scandal, Justice David MacAdam reserved decision.

Hurlburt pled guilty in April to one count of fraud over $5,000 and one count of breach of trust. At that time, three charges of uttering forged documents were withdrawn.

In a voice quivering with emotion, Hurlburt addressed the court at the end of the sentencing hearing. He said, “I am taking full responsibility for my actions and I deeply regret the embarrassment I have caused my family. I am a lucky man in that my family, my friends and many in my community have forgiven me and supported my wife and I in this difficult time.  … I know the public faith in the political system is fragile and I regret that my actions may have led to an increased distrust in the political system.”

According to the agreed statement of facts, Hurlburt submitted four invoices as part of his constituency expense claims for expenses that were not incurred as constituency expenses. The receipts totalled $25,320.77.

A $3,508.92 invoice was included in Hurlburt’s expense claims for December 2006 for purchase and installation of a 40- inch big screen television. The RCMP investigation determined that Hurlburt bought a TV from a local business on Dec. 27, 2006 and the same company later installed a TV that matched the description at Hurlburt’s home in Hebron.

In expense claims submitted for December of 2007 and 2008 there were invoices totalling $12,777.50 that appear to be from a local carpentry company for renovations to his constituency office. RCMP determined that that work had not occurred.

And there was payment for a generator, which created such a storm of publicity when the expense scandal broke in February 2010. Included in Hurlburt’s December 2008 expense claim was a sales order from another company for $9,034.35.

On it was a handwritten notation indicating payment was made using VISA. The order was for purchase and installation of a Honda generator and electrical generator panel at Hurlburt’s Hebron home.

A company representative never installed the generator identified in the quote and told RCMP his company does not accept VISA as a payment method. Hurlburt was reimbursed for the invoice in January 2009.

In July of 2009, the auditor general announced his office would be conducting an audit of MLA expenses.

In October of 2009 Hurlburt had the company install a King Canada generator, supplied by Hurlburt, and an electrical panel installed at his residence. The bill for the work was $2,602.91.

The Crown is seeking between nine and 12 months in jail. Crown prosecutor Andrew MacDonald characterized Hurlburt’s offences, which occurred over a three-year period from Dec. 24, 2006 to Dec. 26, 2008, as “a serious breach of the public trust.”

“This breach was not a momentary lapse in judgment, nor was it an impulsive or spontaneous act. It was a deliberate act to defraud the people of Nova Scotia over a three-year period of time,” he said.

The defence, saying jailing Hurlburt was not necessary,  has suggested a nine-month conditional sentence – six months house arrest, three months on curfew and 200 hours of community service.  If he has to do jail time, the defence said they’d prefer it was an intermittent sentence.

Hurlburt’s lawyer, Stan MacDonald, described his client as a generous man who gave freely of his time and money to help his constituents. In speaking to motivation, he suggested his actions were a misguided way of reimbursing himself for money he was spending in excess of the $1,000 monthly allowance MLAs then had to spend at their discretion. Each of the expense claims in question was submitted at the end of the calendar year, after which any unused portion of the constituency allowance (then between $4,000 and $5,500 a month) would not be carried over.

“He resigned because he knew he had done wrong,” he said, adding that since then Hurlburt has cooperated, made full restitution and acknowledged and apologized for his behaviour.

Three character witnesses were called by the defence.

Shirley Hubbard, chair of the Yarmouth County Hospice Society, described Hurlburt as “an all-round good guy” who “gets the job done.” She said, given the chance, that she and “98 per cent of the people I know” would vote for him again.

Yarmouth town councillor Martin Pink is a close personal friend and has worked with him on projects since Hurlburt’s days as a councillor and then warden of the Municipality of Yarmouth. He described Hurlburt as a hard worker who fought for his community. Pink said over the years, Hurlburt was the “key person” on a number of projects, “including the very building we are in right now.”

Rev A.D. (Bill) Newell addressed the impact the scandal has had on Hurlburt and his family.

“It has taken a heavy, heavy toll emotionally and physically,” he said.

When Hurlburt first entered provincial politics in 1999, he repeatedly said that he was going to fight for the riding of Yarmouth.

Hurlburt was re-elected in 2003, 2006 and 2009 and served as minister of natural resources, economic development and Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. He resigned as Yarmouth’s MLA on Feb. 9, 2010, six days after the auditor general’s report was released.

 

 

 

 

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  • No sympathy
    July 17, 2012 - 07:56

    Had he not been caught, I wonder whether he would have spared a thought for families going without power during an outage while he was tucked up all cozy with a humming generator watching television, both items paid for by defrauding the taxpayer. "All the good this man has done for this town"? He was PAID to do that. You do your job and you receive your paycheque (and, in his case, expense account and pension). This was neither indiscretion nor momentary lapse in judgment. This was a well-thought-out deliberate plan to defraud taxpayers over a period of three years. I fail to understand why anyone but his family and closest friends would offer support to an elected representative who displayed such contempt for his position and the people whom he was supposed to represent.

  • No sympathy
    July 10, 2012 - 21:38

    The portrayal of Hurlburt as a contrite man whose life has been turned upside down by the consequences of his actions is not going to touch the hearts of most Nova Scotians. He hoisted his own petard. And let us not forget that by repaying what he stole, he avoided lawsuits. And let us not forget that he is a politician, and politicians are experts at manipulating people. His hangdog demeanour in court is, in my opinion, nothing but an act. All he cares about is not having to do jail time. . |A recent editorial that paid homage to Hurlburt for his many achievements was totally inappropriate. Since when do we offer tribute to criminals? Hurlburt was not acting out of generosity. WE PAID HIM TO WORK FOR US. He liked his fat paycheque, his liberal expense account, and the thought of a fat pension on retirement. Of course he was going to DO THE JOB FOR WHICH WE PAID HIM – who would not want to keep such a cushy job with such a financial payoff? This entire portrayal of a man who has repaid his debt to society by simply paying back what he stole from us is laughable. If that was all one had to do to settle a debt with society, the jails of this country would have a lot fewer inmates. Rather than paying bail, thieves would simply pony up the cash to pay for whatever they had stolen. Comments about the devastating effect the trial is having on him and his family are ridiculous.—we, the people, are not responsible for that. Hurlburt is the person responsible for any pain and shame that his family members are experiencing. He made a choice to steal. He’s not a stupid man. He could figure out the consequences of being caught and how that would affect his family. He chose to take the risk. While many Nova Scotian children sat wrapped in blankets trying to stay warm because their parents could not afford oil, Hurlburt stole THEIR money to buy a generator so that his family would not have to suffer the inconvenience of a few hours of power outage. While many people had to give up cable because the choice came down to cable or food for their children, Hurlburt stole THEIR money to buy himself a new colour TV. While many people lost their homes, Hurlburt stole THEIR money under the guise of wanting to fix up his office. So let’s get real here when it comes to an editorial that shows even the slightest sympathy for the man. He was an MLA. We paid him to a job. He stole from us. Most of us cannot work up any sympathy for him.

  • nickerson
    July 09, 2012 - 13:49

    I refuse to lose sight of all the good this man has done for this town.This indiscretion will not be what i will remember when i think of him.He made a mistake people and he has paid a heavy price and will continue to pay in the minds of many,Good luck Richard!!