The RCMP are investigating the constituency expense claims of four former Nova Scotia MLAs and one current member.
Provincial Auditor General Jacques Lapointe referred the case files to the RCMP last Wednesday after conducting a forensic audit.
"Based on the results of my investigation, I believe four former members and one current member of the house of assembly may have committed illegal acts related to their constituency expense claims," Lapointe wrote in a two-page letter to the Speaker's office.
Lapointe didn't reveal any names or details in his short report, released Tuesday in Halifax. He said the secrecy is necessary to allow RCMP to do their work.
But he acknowledged the concerns of opposition leaders who fear that a cloud now hangs over all MLAs.
"If that's the case, I'm sorry for that," Lapointe told reporters. "I don't think that's right, but there's very little I can do to offset that."
Sgt. Brigdit Leger, spokeswoman for Nova Scotia RCMP, confirmed the investigation is being handled by the commercial crimes section, which looks at major fraud cases.
She won't comment on any details of the investigation, but said it will be complex and time-consuming because of the number of witnesses to interview and the volume of documents.
"We don't expect this investigation will be completed overnight," said Leger.
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said Lapointe should have notified the affected MLAs before sending their files to police.
"It's human decency, quite frankly, that he would have at least notified those members that the files he had asked them about were being referred. He's not presuming guilt or anything, he's just saying, 'It's beyond me now and I'm turning it over to a police agency,'" McNeil said.
None in Tory caucus: Casey
Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Karen Casey said she is confident the RCMP aren't investigating any of her caucus colleagues.
Casey said she's talked to the seven other members of her Tory team to see what they know.
"As far as they know, they have not been part of any forensic audit," she said. "And as far as they know, no file of theirs has been turned over to the RCMP. If an individual does learn that they are part of that investigation, then they will voluntarily step down from caucus pending the outcome of the investigation."
Casey said that using simple math, it's possible to say at least two of the former MLAs now under investigation are ex-Tories.
NDP Premier Darrell Dexter is also hoping police act quickly to resolve their investigation — one way or the other.
"I would obviously like to see the matter resolved as quickly and expeditiously as possible for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is we have a government to run, we have governing to do," he said.
Dexter said he doesn't believe any of his current caucus members are under investigation.
Independent MLA Trevor Zinck refused comment Tuesday. He was thrown out of the NDP caucus two month ago for what was called "expense irregularities."
Speaker Charlie Parker, who received Lapointe's report, acknowledged that all MLAs are now under a cloud, but he said that likely won't last very long.
Scandal prompted reform
The spending scandal has made headlines for months and led to an overhaul of the MLA expense rules.
In February, Lapointe released a report that found some MLA expense claims filed between July 2006 and June 2009 were excessive or inappropriate. The questionable items included digital cameras, an espresso machine and custom-made furniture.
Lapointe decided to take a closer look at some of those claims when new information came up.
Two MLAs resigned in the wake of the scandal.
Progressive Conservative Richard Hurlburt gave up his Yarmouth seat after it became known that he spent $8,000 on a generator that he kept in his home.
Hurlburt told CBC News Tuesday that he has heard nothing from either the auditor general or the RCMP. He declined to answer any questions about his spending.
Liberal Dave Wilson stepped down as MLA for Glace Bay, but never offered a reason. The auditor general had asked to meet with him, but he declined.
Wilson was not available Tuesday to answer questions, but his lawyer Mark Gouthro said the RCMP haven't contacted him. Gouthro released a statement on Wilson's behalf.
"Mr. Wilson would like it to be known that he hasn't been contacted by the RCMP to this point concerning further investigation into the MLA expense claim," Gouthro said. "Mr. Wilson would also like to say that should he be contacted by the RCMP in the future, he will co-operate with any further investigation."
Lapointe said his job is done and it's up to RCMP to investigate further.
"Our job in this case was to investigate information we received suggesting possible wrongdoing and, where we found substance, refer the matter to the appropriate legal authorities. That has been done," he wrote in his letter.