Hunter said county feels vindicated by CRDA examination findings

Amherst agrees that lessons have been learned

Darrell Cole
Published on July 10, 2014
Cumberland County Keith Hunter and his mayoral counterpart in Amherst, Robert Small, are happy the forensic examination into the former Cumberland Regional Development Authority has been completed.

Cumberland County municipal leaders are happy the forensic examination into the former Cumberland Regional Development Authority has been completed.

UPPER NAPPAN – Cumberland County’s warden says the results of a forensic examination released Thursday show the municipality was on the right track when it pulled its support from the Cumberland Regional Development Authority nearly two years ago.

“It shows that we were right when we took our stand against CRDA. The thing that still disturbs me in the report is that some of the information that should be available is not available,” Hunter said. “I can understand why the province has sent it to the RCMP and I still believe that some of the project funding was switched from one project to another. That was not being accountable to some of the municipalities and money from one municipality could have been used on a project in another municipality without it knowing. We expressed those concerns two years ago and this report seems to back that up.”

Hunter doesn’t believe any money was stolen, it’s a matter of questionable accounting practices.

In August 2012, the warden sent a letter to then NDP minister Percy Paris asking him to suspend the CRDA board of directors and executive director Rhonda Kelly in order to safeguard the assets of the development authority.

The county also withdrew its members from the board of directors, including former county councilor Gerald Read, who was a past-chairman of the CRDA board.

Hunter said the report will prove beneficial in that it will the county review the way it does things, unrelated to CRDA or the new regional enterprise networks.

“There are lessons to be learned here in all the things we do, especially with the new regional enterprise network,” Hunter said. “We have to make sure our board members are diligent in checking what’s going on. In this case, a lot of things were left to the executive director.”

Amherst Mayor Robert Small said the town is pleased the report has finally been released.

“We have received the report and want to spend some time studying it in detail,” Small said. “In light of the report, the town will be reviewing its governance policies and procedures to take advantage of any lessons learned from this report.”

Like Hunter, the mayor said, the report will lead to a further review of terms of reference and accountability procedures in place for all boards and committees, including the REN.

Now that the forensic examination is in the hands of the RCMP, the mayor said it would not appropriate to comment specifically on the content of the report.

An attempt was made to contact Kathy Douglas, one of the two CRDA employees dismissed upon pointing out financial concerns, but her husband, Ned, said the family would not be making a comment on the matter at this time.

CRDA executive director Rhonda Kelly said it would not be appropriate to comment on the investigation.

Kelly told the Amherst News she has not read the report yet and is not sure she will provide comment if and when she reads it.

“I’ve not seen it. I’m not sure if it’s appropriate (to comment). I don’t work there anymore,” Kelly said.

Cumberland North MLA Terry Farrell said he’s glad the forensic examination has been completed.

“This has been a difficult issue for the people of this area and I am hopeful that it will now move toward a final resolution,” Farrell said in a statement.

(With files from Christopher Gooding)

Twitter: @ADNdarrell