Commissioner says Farrell not in conflict of interest over CRDA

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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MLA asks for clarification after constituents raise concerns

Terry Farrell has been told he's not in a conflict of interest regarding his former legal representation of CRDA, but has been advised to respect client confidentiality.

Terry Farrell has been told he's not in a conflict of interest regarding his former legal representation of CRDA, but has been advised to respect client confidentiality.

AMHERST – Cumberland North MLA Terry Farrell is not in a conflict of interest because of his former representation of the now closed regional development authority.

After inquiries from some concerned constituents, the Liberal MLA said he asked conflict of interest commissioner Merlin Nunn to explore the allegations against him.

“In response to your letter and the two enclosed letters and our telephone discussion the matter my first conclusion is that this is not a conflict of interest matter at present,” Nunn said in a letter to Farrell.

In an email to Premier Stephen McNeil and PC and opposition leader Jamie Baillie, several of Farrell’s constituents expressed frustration at the slow pace of the forensic examination with the former Cumberland Regional Development Authority.

Before his election last October, Farrell practiced law with Hicks LeMoine and had represented CRDA as its lawyer.

Farrell said he wanted to hear from the conflict of interest commissioner about his former role with the development authority.

In his letter, Nunn said the author of a Feb. 28 letter does not understand Farrell has withdrawn from Hicks LeMoine, but remains bound by the lawyer’s ethical code regarding client and law firm information that requires him not to reveal confidential information without the express consent of the client or the firm.

“As I indicated, you should not give out privileged information and, though it is difficult for the MLA of the area not to try to defend himself when challenged, I would suggest you do nothing of the sort,” Nunn said. “To jump into the fray for that purpose could be most harmful to you and could possibly lead to a conflict of interest situation.”

The Cumberland North MLA said Monday he wanted to get some guidance from Nunn on how he should proceed and now that he has that advice he will not be commenting further on his role in the former development agency.

Farrell said he will be asking Economic and Rural Development Minister Michel Samson to advocate on behalf of the residents of Cumberland North on matters relating to the CRDA file.

PricewaterhouseCoopers is continuing its forensic examination of the development agency that closed in mid-2013 as part of a provincial move to close the RDAs and replace them with regional enterprise networks.

There is lots of speculation on why it has taken more than a year to complete the investigation with government officials saying the independent firm investigating CRDA need the time to complete the work and do the due diligence required.

PricewaterhouseCoopers was hired in January 2013 to review the financial management of the development authority. The examination follows a report by provincial ombudsman Dwight Bishop that found questionable accounting practices and a lack of oversight at CRDA.

He said invoices were created and used to obtain funds from the province without direct expenditures. Those actions, he said, undermined the accountability process and brought into question matters of credibility and integrity.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Cumberland Regional Development Authority, PricewaterhouseCoopers

Geographic location: Cumberland North

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  • Ned Douglas
    March 25, 2014 - 10:58

    " Farrell said he will be asking Economic and Rural Development Minister Michel Samson..." Oh thats great Terry. You're sloughing off responsibility to your constituents to a Minister who's in charge of a government department thats by all accounts the subject of a forensic examination. Is this the best you can do for the people who elected you?