N.S. Tory apologizes and pays back cost of generator flagged by auditor general

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX, N.S. - A Conservative member of the Nova Scotia legislature apologized Friday for spending $7,995 in public money on a generator, one day after he defiantly defended the purchase as a valid expense.

Richard Hurlburt, a former cabinet minister, issued a brief statement calling the purchase a lapse in judgment.

"I am sorry for expensing an item that I now know was not an appropriate claim," said Hurlburt, who represents the rural constituency of Yarmouth.

"I regret how this has been perceived and have paid back the full amount."

Hurlburt said he reimbursed the money on Thursday and will donate the machine to a community group in his constituency.

"It was purchased for their use, and I made emergency organizations aware that it was available to them whenever it was needed," he said.

The expense was one of several that were flagged as excessive in a report released earlier this week by the province's auditor general.

Hurlburt's admission was a dramatic turnaround for the Tory veteran, who as late as Thursday was insisting he had followed spending guidelines. He said he bought the generator for the benefit of constituents, including a senior citizens' complex in his neighbourhood.

Two former Conservative cabinet ministers also came forward Friday to say their expenses were among those cited in auditor general Jacques Lapointe's report.

Judy Streatch said she was notified that a $738 espresso machine she bought was on the list of expense items Lapointe questioned.

Interviewed by reporters at the Conservative's annual general meeting later Friday, she confirmed she met with the administrator of the Speaker's Office earlier in the day and reimbursed taxpayers the full amount for the coffee machine.

"I've always held that my integrity and my accountability are extremely important to me and my family and I'm more than happy to reimburse for the expense," Streatch said.

Streatch was asked if she now believes the purchase of the machine, which was installed in her constituency office, was extravagant.

"Some members choose to rent monthly. Other members choose to purchase outright," she said. "We purchased outright and that's why I assume it was flagged."

Streatch said the purchase was an "approved legitimate expense" and it wasn't her intention to mislead or do anything inappropriate.

Len Goucher said he used public money to buy three MP3 players for $150, but added that they were for three schools in his suburban constituency of Bedford-Birch Cove. Goucher said he is also waiting to hear from the Speaker's Office about his expenses.

Lapointe's probe has concluded members from all parties used public money inappropriately or excessively, including Premier Darrell Dexter and former premier Rodney MacDonald.

Organizations: Tory

Geographic location: HALIFAX, Nova Scotia

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