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SYDNEY — Hirings made by Enterprise Cape Breton Corp. CEO John Lynn are under investigation by the federal integrity officer and Lynn has taken leave from his duties with the federal Crown corporation.
In a letter dated June 10 responding to concerns raised by MP Gerry Byrne, commissioner Mario Dion said he has determined “that an investigation into this matter is warranted as I have reasonable grounds to believe that a wrongdoing was committed.”
Lynn’s involvement in the Ben Eoin Marina project will also be part of the probe.
Lynn has ties to Pictou County. He previously served as President of the Atlantic Region for Sobeys and is a past president of the Weeks Crushers Hockey Organization.
ECBC spokesman D.A. Landry confirmed Monday that John Lynn had taken a “personal leave,” but said he remains with the federal Crown corporation. He said he couldn’t confirm the nature of Lynn’s leave due to privacy considerations. His contract is to expire in 2015.
Marlene Usher, executive director general advocacy with ECBC, will serve as acting CEO.
Byrne had questioned several hirings of people with strong ties to the Conservative party during Lynn’s tenure. In particular, in his Dec. 13 letter, Byrne named Ken Langley, Rob MacLean and Alan Murphy.
Langley, ECBC’s director of legal services, was a defeated Nova Scotia provincial Conservative candidate, Byrne noted. MacLean, ECBC’s director of corporate legacy, is a former executive assistant to former Progressive Conservative provincial cabinet minister Cecil Clarke and Murphy, ECBC’s director of government relations and advocacy, is a defeated federal Conservative candidate and was a longtime Peter MacKay staffer. Murphy’s position is based in Ottawa. They all continue to work for ECBC, although Langley is currently on medical leave.
Byrne said the three positions were never posted. Byrne also questioned the hiring of Lynn himself in 2008. He said Lynn was a longtime associate of MacKay with no previous public service record and longtime public servants were passed over for the position.
He said Lynn was hired despite not speaking French.
In his letter, Byrne said that as a Crown corporation, ECBC’s hirings “must be merit-based and protective of a tradition of non-partisanship.”
Lynn, 62, has been in the news this year related to ECBC’s funding of the Ben Eoin Marina, a project that has been the source of some controversy. ECBC granted $4 million of the project’s $4.8-million cost and took ownership of the marina, leasing it to a community group. The proponent’s $800,000 contribution to the project was considered to be the land needed for the marina, which was purchased with the help of forgivable government loans to develop The Lakes golf course more than a decade earlier.
Lynn is a boater and a member of the marina.
Dion’s letter to Byrne said his office’s investigation will include Lynn’s involvement in “the alleged mismanagement of an ECBC-funded marina project.”
This year, ECBC also bought the Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club property on Sydney’s Esplanade and had planned to demolish the building, but it subsequently burned to the ground. The yacht club merged with Ben Eoin Marina, which assumed its royal charter.
Lynn is also the subject of an investigation by conflict of interest and ethics commissioner Mary Dawson.
The Cape Breton Post tried to reach Lynn by phone at his Big Pond home Monday but there was no answer. A cell number that Lynn had recently used to call the Post was no longer in service.
In May, the office of Dawson confirmed that it was conducting an investigation in relation to Lynn. It wouldn’t provide any further details, citing confidentiality. That investigation is ongoing.
At that time, Lynn told the Cape Breton Post that the process is confidential and he couldn’t disclose details. He did confirm that he was contacted by the ethics commissioner’s office and was asked to provide information, which he has done. He said he was co-operating with them and was “absolutely comfortable” with his conduct.
The Public Service Commission of Canada released its final report last year regarding hiring practices at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, which resulted in the revocation of some appointments.
“The concerns around the issues that have been raised are significant, I think they’re important,” said Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner. “I think it’s imperative that the public have trust in our public institutions. If the actions of an organization or an individual in any way compromise that trust, then I think that we should be concerned.”
ECBC was created in 1987 as a development agency for Cape Breton.