The former executive director of the now-defunct Cumberland Regional Development Authority (CRDA) won’t be going to jail for submitting nearly $100,000 in fraudulent project-expense claims.
On Monday in Amherst provincial court, Rhonda Kelly was handed a 12-month conditional sentence, followed by one year of probation and ordered to pay restitution of $97,400.
An agreed statement of facts noted that there’s no evidence to suggest that Kelly personally profited from the fraudulent claims.
Kelly was charged in 2016 with one count of fraud and nine counts of forgery, but the fraud charge and eight counts of forgery were dropped in exchange for her April guilty plea on one count of forgery.
Crown attorney Roland Levesque said the prosecution agreed to drop the charges because of the overlap between them.
“The thought process was that the forged document count encompassed all of the actions involving the eight projects in question,” he said in an interview.
Kelly defrauded the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism by filing forged claim forms on these projects:
- Age of Sail project
- Cumberland Energy Office
- Fundy Shore Business Development Strategy
- Main Street Beautification Phase II project
- Pugwash Marina project
- Regional Energy Strategy
- YMCA Fundraising Strategy
- Youth Retention Project
The agreed statement of facts said that near the end of fiscal years 2008 to 2011, CRDA submitted false invoices to the department to secure project funding.
CRDA, which has since been dismantled along with its regional counterparts elsewhere in the province, used to receive about $700,000 a year of public funding, plus hundreds of thousands of additional dollars for specific projects.
Whistleblowers sparked investigations
After complaints were filed by two former employees of CRDA, the provincial ombudsman’s office conducted an investigation and released a report in August 2012. The report listed concerns…