Murray got cash for claims

Rob Antle
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Key witness testifies Walsh gave him envelopes stuffed with money

It began with one phone call, one constituency claim, one cheque and an envelope stuffed with cash.

But it ultimately mushroomed into tens of thousands in excess payments and criminal charges.

Bill Murray is the former House of Assembly director of financial operations who received that phone call.

Jim Walsh is the then-MHA who made the call, according to Murray's sworn testimony in provincial court Wednesday.

Bill Murray the former House of Assembly director of financial operations testified again Wednesday in the corruption case of former MHA Jim Walsh. - Photo by Rob Antle/The Telegram

It began with one phone call, one constituency claim, one cheque and an envelope stuffed with cash.

But it ultimately mushroomed into tens of thousands in excess payments and criminal charges.

Bill Murray is the former House of Assembly director of financial operations who received that phone call.

Jim Walsh is the then-MHA who made the call, according to Murray's sworn testimony in provincial court Wednesday.

Walsh called to ask Murray if he could do anything to help him out. "I said, 'Bring down your invoices and I'll see what I can do.' ... It just steamrolled from there," Murray testified.

When the first excess claim was processed, Walsh gave him an envelope stuffed with a couple of hundred dollars in cash, and said, "Thanks a million," Murray told the court.

"That happened a couple of times, but not all the time."

Murray testified he received a total of $2,000 in cash from Walsh for his help.

"I never considered it as taking money," Murray said. "I considered it a token of appreciation."

Murray said he did so because Walsh told him he "needed some extra cash or something."

The $2,000 figure did not include things like Christmas gifts from Walsh.

"I got tokens from all of the members at Christmastime."

Crown prosecutor Frances Knickle asked Murray why he put through the claims, even though he knew Walsh had already reached his spending limit.

"I can't tell you the reason why. I just did it. I probably would have done the same for other members who asked me. ... I did do it for other members."

Murray acknowledged he had no authority to authorize excess payments. But he said his job was to follow directions from MHAs.

"I did whatever the members asked me to do ... I never said no."

And Murray testified that Walsh must have been aware he was over his claim limit. "I'm sure he knew it was over budget ... 99.9 per cent of the members kept very close records of their constituency allowances."

Walsh - a former Liberal MHA and cabinet minister - is on trial for fraud over $5,000, breach of trust by a public officer and frauds on government. The charges relate to excess claims totalling $159,316 made from his taxpayer-funded constituency allowance between 1998 and 2004.

Murray is also facing a raft of charges in conjunction with the spending scandal.

On Tuesday, Murray testified that he filled out every one of the last 46 constituency allowance claims Walsh filed during his final year and a half in politics. Walsh was defeated in the October 2003 general election.

During that time, the total amount of constituency allowance claims paid into Walsh's bank account spiked to roughly triple his published limit.

Walsh's constituency spending limit in 2002-03 was $30,500. He filed - and was paid for - claims of more than $92,000, not including HST.

His limit was also $30,500 in 2003-04. Walsh was paid $91,000 that fiscal year, even though he served just six months before his electoral defeat.

The vast majority of Walsh's excess claims - more than $120,000 of the $159,316 total - occurred in those years, when Murray was completing all of the MHA's forms.

But in a 2007 videotaped interview with police, Walsh indicated that his staff was responsible for doing his constituency allowance claims.

And he denied police allegations that he ever asked Murray for financial help.

"There was nothing Bill Murray could do for me," Walsh told police investigators two years ago. "Not - nothing. Anything he would have to do for me would have to be illegal."

Defence lawyer Vernon French cross-examined Murray for several hours Wednesday, but did not broach the cash payments.

Murray is scheduled to be back on the stand today to face more questions from Walsh's attorney.

rantle@thetelegram.com

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  • Kat
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    I like the way this was written.
    Not the typical lead support set up and quote. :)

  • Kat
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    I like the way this was written.
    Not the typical lead support set up and quote. :)