A Nova Scotia politician suspended by the NDP caucus Thursday
acknowledges he fell behind on bills that didn't get paid for some
period of time.

 

Trevor Zinck says he neglected to pay some of
his constituency expenses last fall due to a change in his office staff
and because he had to assist in the care of his father, who required
open heart surgery.

 

“I lost an assistant who'd been here for 11
and a half years ... It became very difficult to handle the workload,”
he told The Canadian Press.

 

“What had happened was that bills didn't get paid. There were delays ... and that caused some concern.”

 

Nova
Scotia Speaker Charlie Parker said the bills totalled a few thousand
dollars for which Zinck was reimbursed, but went unpaid.

 

Parker
said there are about five instances over the last year involving
“irregularities” around the payment of ordinary office expenses such as
power, heat and rent.


Parker said his office is currently
investigating what he views as a “serious issue” and he should know
within a matter of days what options are at his disposal to deal with
the matter.


He said those could include referring the case to
police, to the province's auditor general or simply asking for
reimbursement of any money, if that is necessary.


But Zinck, who
represents the Halifax-area constituency of Dartmouth North, said he
has spoken with the Speaker's Office and that the bills are now paid.


“Everything
is in line now,” he said. “It's business as usual. Constituents are
happy and we're addressing their concerns everyday.”


Premier
Darrell Dexter said the caucus suspended Zinck after he provided
explanations about his spending that were “unsatisfactory.”


“At
this point there is no avenue for him to come back to the caucus unless
he was able to adequately satisfy the Speaker in relation to those
matters,” Dexter said.


“I suppose it would always be possible
having satisfied the Speaker ... that he could ask to be readmitted. At
that point that would be a question for caucus to consider.”


Dexter
said Zinck's spending problems were flagged by a caucus staffer who had
been assigned to help Zinck sort out his constituency bills last fall.


Dexter said Zinck had told the caucus that he had been dealing with some family problems.


Earlier in the day, NDP caucus chairwoman Vicki Conrad said the caucus no longer had trust in Zinck's conduct.


Conrad
said information was brought to the attention of the Speaker's Office
after it became apparent that steps to ensure proper expense procedures
were not followed.


But Zinck says he believes his suspension was
mostly due to his lack of attendance at caucus meetings and some
unspecified complaints from constituents.


“My participation in caucus has not been effective in their opinion,” he said.


Zinck
said he'll sit as an Independent and will run as an Independent in the
next provincial election. He also hinted he has difficulties with the
coming budget and added that he has been in contact with the
Conservative and Liberal party leaders about his change in status.


The suspension comes on the same day that the province's legislature opens with a throne speech.