Former Cumberland RDA head pleads not guilty to fraud, forgery charges

Three weeks set aside for trial

Christopher Gooding cgooding@citizenrecord.ca
Published on January 11, 2017

Nine months after being charged with submitting forged documents and defrauding the province, the former head of the now defunct Cumberland Regional Development Authority has plead not-guilty to all accusation against her.

Counsel for Rhonda Charmaine Kelly appeared in Amherst Provincial Court on Jan. 9 to enter not-guilty pleas to the 10 charges against Kelly. Three weeks have been set aside beginning June 19 for the trial. An in-chamber pre-trial conference will be held March 27.

The charges against Kelly – one count of defrauding the province of an amount in excess of $5,000, and nine subsequent charges of knowingly cause the Nova Scotia Dept. of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism to act upon forged documents worth more than $750,000 between July 2007 and January 2010 – arise during the time Kelly was executive director of the economic and development association behind such projects as the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, Cape Chignecto park in Advocate Harbour, the refurbishment of the Thinkers Lodge in Pugwash and a number of downtown Amherst projects.

The charges are just another chapter in a long story, which includes an investigation by the provincial ombudsman calling practices at the association into question, a forensic audit and computer files hidden in a bank lockbox.

Two whistleblowers from within the organization raised the alarm of questionable practices and in 2012 the provincial ombudsman slammed CRDA’s financial practices and the province’s lack of oversight, saying a forensic examination by the Provincial Auditor General was required and if the results were consistent with the Ombudsman’s findings, recommended the matter be handed over to police.

In 2013, the same year CRDA stopped operating, PriceWaterhouseCoopers were hired by the province to conduct the forensic audit. Those findings were handed over to RCMP in July 2014.

In October 2015, RCMP announced they found a key computer to their investigation in a bank lockbox in Amherst.

Kelly was charged six months later in April 2016.

None of the allegations against Kelly have been proven in court.

 

By the year

2011– Two whistleblowers sound the alarm to CRDA’s board of directors of questionable accounting practices taking place at the development authority

2012 – The Office of the Ombudsman submits its report on CRDA, concluding invoices were created to obtain funds from the province without any direct expenditures

2013 – Following its forensic audit of CRDA, PriceWaterhouseCoopers signals to RCMP a criminal investigation is needed

2015 – RCMP confirm they seized a computer hard drive found in a bank lockbox considered significant to their investigation into the CRDA matter

2016 – Charges are laid against former CRDA executive director Rhonda Kelly

2017 – Kelly pleads not guilty to all charges