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Embattled MLA denies he used friend's credit card without permission
Former New Democrat MLA Trevor Zinck claims his former caucus colleagues are smearing his name after first kicking him out for questioning their direction.
Zinck, who now sits as an Independent, said Monday the NDP spread the story that he owes a disabled friend money in unpaid gambling debts.
The story came out a week after the NDP suspended Zinck for problems with his constituency bills.
"There is definitely a connection," Zinck told radio station News 95.7 during a one-hour interview.
Zinck admitted that he gambled online at home with Scott Marshall, a longtime friend with cerebral palsy who was once in his care, but Zinck said at no time did he use Marshall's credit card without his knowledge.
"I am willing to and have paid back anything that we agreed upon, in my opinion," Zinck said.
Zinck suggested that Marshall's mother, Helena MacLeod, was paid for telling the media about his gambling and said there was "no question" that Marshall was manipulated, too.
Premier dismisses accusation
The Dartmouth North MLA said he got a lot of public support the week he was suspended and that the NDP had to find a "bullet" to discredit him.
"That bullet, I believe, came in the form of finding Ms. Helena and then subsequently putting pressure on Mr. Marshall to come out in this way," Zinck said.
Premier Darrell Dexter dismissed the accusation that his party urged MacLeod to speak out against Zinck.
The premier said neither he nor anyone in his caucus knows Scott Marshall or his mother.
Also, Dexter said, he didn't even know Zinck was being paid to be Marshall's caregiver while he was an MLA.
"So far as I know, nobody knows these people," Dexter said. "I believe it was also the media outlets that, to not put too fine a point on it, realized the fact that he had not even claimed the income. So we didn't even know about the relationship, let alone anything else."
Dexter said he's not interested in getting into a war of words with Zinck, given that the MLA is going through "a very difficult time."
MacLeod said Monday that she isn't bothered by Zinck's allegations, because anyone who knows her knows she's honest and wouldn't lie about something like this.
MacLeod said she has never spoken to anyone from the NDP and doesn't have any connections to the party.
"Well, it's just, as far as I'm concerned, Trevor trying to cover his butt," she said.
When she figured out the debt that they believe Zinck still owes her son, MacLeod said she subtracted the charges for things Scott bought, and she credited Zinck for payments he has made up till now.
She said Zinck still owes $7,000 of the $10,000 debt.
MacLeod pointed out that Zinck has now admitted publicly that he did use her son's credit card to gamble, and she wonders why it took Zinck a week to come up with his statement, if he is telling the truth.
No longer trusted him
Zinck claims he was among a dozen backbenchers who were unhappy that the NDP wasn't doing more to combat poverty. The NDP made him the scapegoat to convince the others to toe the line, he said.
Zinck said the NDP offered him $45,000 last fall to leave.
The NDP caucus suspended Zinck on the eve of the spring legislative session last month, saying there were "persistent" problems with his constituency expenses and they no longer trusted him.
Speaker Charlie Parker said Zinck was reimbursed for certain office expenses, such as power and rent, but didn't immediately use the money to pay those bills. He has called in the auditor general to investigate.
Zinck has admitted to CBC News that he had drinking and gambling problems.
He refused to take questions from CBC News and other reporters on Monday.
Independent MLA Trevor Zinck accuses the Speaker of the house of unparliamentary conduct for instigating an investigation into his constituency expenses.
The Dartmouth North MLA took his seat on the opposition side of the legislature on Monday, after being suspended from the government caucus for the way he handled his office bills.
Zinck said Speaker Charlie Parker — his former caucus colleague — called in the auditor general before he even had a chance to respond to the accusations against him.
"It's very unparliamentary," said Zinck.
"The Speaker holds a very important role in the house. He's supposed to have an unbiased opinion and a non-partisan view. And I believe there's been several occasions where he overstepped his boundaries. I believe his opinions were sided with the side of government and influenced."
Zinck is threatening to challenge Parker on the floor of the house and possibly call for his resignation.
But Parker shrugs off the accusation that he acted in a partisan manner.
"We're all politicians and, you know, politics is involved in our lives here every day and, again, I'm trying to be neutral as I possibly can and to treat all members with fairness, including Mr. Zinck," said Parker.
Parker said he discussed the matter with four lawyers and they all advised him to forward the Zinck case to the auditor general.
The NDP announced Zinck's suspension on Thursday, citing "persistent" problems with his constituency expenses.
Parker later explained that Zinck was reimbursed for certain office expenses, such as power and rent, but didn't immediately use the money to pay those bills.
Drinking and gambling
Zinck admitted to drinking and gambling problems. He told CBC News the mounting pressures of running his constituency office without an assistant and the serious health problems of his father contributed to his troubles.
Nova Scotia MLAs have faced the ire of the public since Auditor General Jacques Lapointe found "excessive and unreasonable" claims, partly due to inadequate spending controls.
Progressive Conservative Richard Hurlburt resigned his Yarmouth seat after it was discovered that he had billed taxpayers $8,000 for a generator that he kept at home.
Liberal Dave Wilson later stepped down as MLA for Glace Bay but didn't give a reason.