ARICHAT: A forensic audit dealing with five years’ worth of expense claims filed by Richmond municipal councillors and the county’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) has reached the public, as the result of a motion passed by council three days after the municipal election.

Following a two-hour, 20-minute council meeting on October 18 that was not open to the general public, councillors held a brief session that included a unanimous vote in favour of releasing a forensic audit regarding expenses incurred on credit cards issued to municipal councillors and CAO Warren Olsen between April 1, 2011 and March 30, 2016.

Conducted by the legal firm of Boyne Clarke, with the assistance of Richmond County’s municipal auditors, Grant Thornton, the document was posted on the county’s municipal Web site yesterday (October 25).

“Although council has some questions pertaining to the Grant Thornton report, council will work with Grant Thornton to have the report released on the county Web site within five business days,” outgoing councillor Steve MacNeil stated in reading the official council motion last week.

Shortly after this motion received approval, councillors voted 8-1 to approve the extension of Olsen’s recent medical leave to the end of the business day ending last Friday (October 21) at 5 p.m. Olsen announced on October 4 that he would take a medical leave from his post to enter a substance abuse treatment program.

Speaking to The Reporter the day after the council session, outgoing Warden Victor David did not speculate on how quickly Olsen was expected to resume his work as CAO or whether he would receive another extension of his medical leave.

“I’m not Mr. Olsen’s doctor, so it’s not right for me to speak to that,” said David, who was defeated in his bid for a third council term.

Councillor Brian Marchand, who was recently acclaimed to the new council district serving the Louisdale, Evanston and Point Tupper areas, registered the only vote against the extension of Olsen’s medical leave.

While none of the outgoing council addressed the specifics of the audit before, during or after the brief public session, both David and Marchand spoke positively about the mood around the table for the final meeting of the tumultuous council term.

“There was a lot of discussion… and I think it was very progressive,” David suggested.

In his remarks to reporters following the October 18 session, Marchand described an “excellent” tone in the run-up to the unanimous vote to release the audit’s findings to the public.

“I think everybody treated each other with respect, and no one seemed angry – everyone knew that the decision had to be made,” said Marchand, who noted that only Richmond County residents could decide whether expense-claim issues will persist well into the new council session.

“That will depend on the taxpayers,” Marchand declared.

“It may continue, but if we give them the information they want and answer the questions they have, I think it’ll slow down. And that’s hopefully what the new council will be doing.”