Former SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson. FILE PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
The lawyer for the former CEO of SWSDA says the taxpayer money spent on a forensic audit of the defunct regional development authority is money that could have been better spent elsewhere because the new report doesn’t say anything that’s much different from previous reports that money was spent on.
“What it really shows is maybe there could have been better accounting records completed down at the authority, but that’s all it’s showing,” said Barry Mason of the Bedford law firm Presse Mason.
When asked for reaction to the fact that the government has said it will be providing the Ernst and Young audit report to the RCMP for the police to determine whether any laws were broken, Mason said making such a statement is meaningless since the report is a public document.
“The full report is really scapegoating and targeting Frank (Anderson), really, for hard work that he did to try and create employment down on the south shore," Mason said. "Sharing the report with the RCMP, it’s a matter of public record. By the minister saying that he’s really just saying that they’re targeting him and it’s completely unfair for someone who has committed so much of his time and effort towards creating employment down in that area.”
Asked in hindsight if there are things his client feels could have been done differently at SWSDA, Mason said, “Here’s the thing that people have to realize. There was a member on the board who represented the Department of Economic Development. There was an officer from the Department of Economic Development that sat through all of their board meetings and now the minister of economic development turns around and starts pointing the finger at Frank.
“The Department of Economic Development knew what was going on all along and now, because there was a cash crunch a few years ago when they were trying to do a few projects and the development ended up going down, now there is blaming going on.”
The lawyer said after an ombudsman report on SWSDA had come out previously, the regional development authority was putting measures in place stemming from recommendations made by the ombudsman.
“There were recommendations made, SWSDA and the board of directors and Frank were in the process of implementing those recommendations and then the carpet was pulled out from underneath them,” he said.
As for creditors who are owed money by SWSDA, the lawyer said that SWSDA was in the process of working with the province for financing so that contractors could be paid.
“SWSDA was advised at one point that it was a go, that the province was going to assist. Then the rug was pulled out from underneath them,” he said. “It was always the intention, from my understanding, that SWSDA was going to pay these creditors and carry on business and continue to create employment in the South Shore.”