YARMOUTH, N.S. - A former Nova Scotia cabinet minister sobbed openly in court on Thursday as he expressed his regret and took full responsibility for his role in a scandal that saw him defraud the province of just over $25,000.
"I am particularly concerned for my grandchildren," Richard Hurlburt told a sentencing hearing as he slumped while standing next to his lawyer, Stan MacDonald.
He said he was proud of the way his grandchildren handled taunting at school about his role in the province's spending scandal before apologizing to his family, constituents and former political colleagues.
"I am ashamed and feel I have paid a price for the past 2 1/2 years," said Hurlburt, 62, who pleaded guilty in April to charges of fraud and breach of trust. " I hope this will not prevent people from participating in the political process."
Justice David MacAdam of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia reserved a decision on Hurlburt's sentence until July 27.
An agreed statement of facts says Hurlburt committed fraud totalling $25,320.77 between December 2006 and December 2008. The statement presented in court says he submitted four claims for expenses that were not incurred in his constituency work.
Court also heard that Hurlburt reimbursed the Speaker's Office $11,073 in February 2010 and $14,247 last month.
The false claims submitted by Hurlburt include one for a $9,000 Honda generator that was not purchased.
Two other expense claims total nearly $13,000 for renovations to his constituency office. Hurlburt was reimbursed more than $5,000 for renovations that were not done.
He was also reimbursed more than $3,500 for the purchase and installation of a 40-inch LCD television at his home.
In his sentencing argument, Crown attorney Andrew Macdonald said Hurlburt committed a significant breach of the public's trust and deserves a sentence in line with what was given to Dave Wilson, a former Liberal member of the legislature who was sentenced to nine months in jail.
He recommended a sentence of between nine and 12 months in jail, followed by a period of probation for Hurlburt.
Outside court, Macdonald said the sentence should act as a deterrence and publicly denounce Hurlburt's actions.
In Wilson's case, he said the court took into account that his actions were driven by a gambling addiction.
"That's not the case in these circumstances, so despite the fact there's a different dollar amount I'm saying we should be treating the cases similarly."
Defence lawyer Stan MacDonald said Hurlburt deserves credit because he had shown remorse, apologized and paid the money back.
He called for a nine-month conditional sentence consisting of six months of house arrest and three months of curfew, as well as 200 hours of community service. He said if any jail time is necessary, it should be served on an intermittent basis.
"Why should (his actions) deserve a jail term when his actions subsequent to the events have been exemplary," MacDonald told reporters.
"I mean, he has done all that he can to make up for what's happened, so you don't have to go to jail."
Three people testified at the hearing on Hurlburt's character, describing him as remorseful and as someone who has paid a price for his actions.
"We have talked many times and I know it has taken a heavy toll on him emotionally and physically," said Bill Newell, a retired Baptist minister who has been a family friend for 35 years.
"I know he has many regrets."
Local lawyer Martin Pink told the court his friend has been troubled by what happened and has lost about 30 pounds.
He said Hurlburt played a major role in helping get significant projects completed in the community.
"This very building that we are sitting in right now is one example," he said.
Hurlburt is the second former member of the legislature to plead guilty in the scandal after Wilson admitted to defrauding the public purse of $61,000 to feed his gambling addiction.
Independent member Trevor Zinck and former Liberal Russell MacKinnon also face charges related to the scandal that broke following a 2010 report by auditor general Jacques Lapointe.
MacKinnon has pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud, breach of trust and uttering forged documents. His trial is scheduled to start in March.
A preliminary hearing wrapped up last month for Zinck and his lawyer said at the time it could be a year before the case goes to trial.
Hurlburt was a cabinet minister in the Progressive Conservative governments of former premiers John Hamm and Rodney MacDonald, serving in a number of portfolios including natural resources and energy.
He quit politics soon after the report was released, but not before initially defending the purchase of the generator as a valid expense. Court heard he later purchased a cheaper generator and had it installed at his home.
At the time he said it could be used in emergencies by a nearby seniors' home and for ground search and rescue teams.
Top 5 Political Spending Scandals
Here are a few examples of some red-faced moments in public expense reports, in which those involved likely wished they had gone back and done -- or in the case of David Dingwall, said -- a few things differently.<br><br><em>With files from CBC</em><br><br>(CP/Getty)
5. Cleaning The Moat
Britain's parliamentarians became embroiled in scandal in 2009 over their declared expenses after the Daily Telegraph obtained an uncensored copy of their claims and published them.<br><br> Details disclosed by the newspaper showed how MPs from all parties manipulated rules by routinely switching the designation of their second home -- using public money to furnish and improve several properties and later sell them at a profit.<br><br> Facing fierce public fury as embarrassing details emerged daily, nearly 400 British MPs, including then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, were ordered to pay back close to $2 million in wrongfully claimed expenses.<br><br> But amid the outrage, one the most publicized cases was of that then Conservative MP Douglas Hogg, who was alleged to have expensed the cleaning of a moat at his family's country estate. Hogg agreed to repay the cost of cleaning the moat, but insisted he had only listed the cleaning cost as an expenditure on his house and never asked to be reimbursed. He decided not to stand for his seat in the 2010 election.<br><br> (MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
4. EHealth Ontario
A scandal broke out in Ontario in 2009 over wasteful and untendered consulting contracts at eHealth, a provincial Crown corporation charged with creating an electronic health records system. The controversy over eHealth's spending led to the resignation of then Health Minister David Caplan.<br><br> Among the embarrassing revelations at eHealth, CBC News obtained documents that showed consultants, contracted by eHealth at up to $2,750 a day, billed taxpayers for out-of-pocket expenses that included $1.65 for a cup of tea and $3.99 for cookies.<br><br> The documents said eHealth CEO and president Sarah Kramer billed thousands of dollars for limousine rides, including one $400 trip from Toronto to London, Ont., before she left her $380,000-a-year job in June of that year.<br><br>(CP)
3. Nova Scotia MLA Scandal
Nova Scotia's provincial legislature was rocked by a report by the provincial auditor general that found that many MLAs submitted questionable expense claims over a number of years. The affair evolved into a criminal investigation that led to several MLAs resigning and at least one former member being sentenced to prison.<br><br> Ex-Liberal MLA Dave Wilson, pictured, pleaded guilty to defrauding Nova Scotia taxpayers of nearly $61,000 to support his gambling addiction and was sentenced last week to nine months of jail time and 18 months of probation. Crown attorneys in his case detailed how Wilson submitted 36 false expense receipts using five people's names -- including his niece and brother-in-law -- totalling $60,995. Wilson apologized to his family and the people of the province, telling the court he was deeply ashamed of his actions.<br><br>(CP)
2. George Radwanski
Former federal privacy commissioner George Radwanski resigned in 2003 under a cloud following intense scrutiny of his spending. At the time, Radwanski blamed "a powerful political backlash from some who would prefer a less forceful privacy commissioner." His severance package was initially $82,562, but later cut to nothing.<br><br> Radwanski resigned after a Commons committee called for a full audit of Radwanski's expense claims, which included more than $500,000 in travel claims, $250 drinks tabs and dinner bills of more than $450, usually shared with one staff member.<br><br> Auditor General Sheila Fraser's report called for an RCMP investigation of Radwanski after her department's audit revealed "a major failure of management controls and the abuse of public funds by the former commissioner and some senior executives, for their personal benefit."<br><br> In 2009, an Ontario judge acquitted Radwanski of criminal fraud charges, but criticized his "negligent and cavalier" approach to accounting for controversial expenses he claimed while in office. Radwanski's former chief of staff, Art Lamarche, was convicted of breach of trust. Radwanski acknowledged he wished he had done some things differently, but insisted he "never acted dishonestly or knowingly improperly in any way." <br><br>(CP)
1. 'I'm Entitled To My Entitlements'
In February 2006, former Liberal cabinet minister David Dingwall was awarded $417,780 in compensation after an independent arbitrator concluded he was forced out of his $277,000-a-year job as head of the Royal Canadian Mint.<br><br> His removal from the head of the Crown corporation came amid a frenzy caused by unproven allegations that he and his office made improper and excessive expense claims, as the then Liberal government was reeling from the inquiry into the federal sponsorship scandal.<br><br> Opposition MPs, including then Opposition Leader Stephen Harper, portrayed the Dingwall case as a sign of Liberal misspending, accusing him of wasting taxpayers' money on reimbursement claims for expensive meals, excessive travel and even a pack of chewing gum. In the midst of the controversy over his resignation and compensation package, Dingwall drew the scorn of opposition parties when he said the now notorious words to a Commons committee: "I'm entitled to my entitlements."<br><br> Harper's party picked up the phrase and used it repeatedly as an example of Liberal arrogance during the campaign leading up to the Jan. 23, 2006, general election.<br><br> In fact, an independent audit of the expenses by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers later found that more than 70 per cent of them were incurred by other employees in Dingwall's office at the Mint, and that all the payments had been properly approved under the Crown corporation's guidelines.<br><br> A second independent review by law firm Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt concluded the governance of expendures at the Mint went "well beyond what one could expect to find in most private-sector corporations."<br><br>(CP)