After first being the subject of a damning report by the Nova Scotia Ombudsman’s office, Island Employment is now the subject of a police investigation.
The Cape Breton-based employment services organization closed on November 21 after the Department of Labor terminated its contract earlier.
Less than two weeks later, on Dec. 2, the ministry asked Cape Breton Regional Police to investigate a possible embezzlement of public funds, according to a spokesperson for the police department.
In his annual report, Ombudsman William A. Smith said his office discovered “gross misuse or mismanagement of public funds or assets” after investigating four years of cases.
The Ministry of Labor declined an interview, citing the ongoing investigation.
In a statement, a spokesperson told CBC News that the government has a responsibility to oblige providers of taxpayer-funded services to meet certain standards and to pass the information on to the appropriate authorities.
News of the police investigation surprised Jason MacLean, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union. The union represents former Island Employment workers.
MacLean has requested a forensic check of what has happened in the organization over the past few weeks, saying he believes the process will erase the names of its members.
“Why is a criminal investigation now necessary when they have no new information? All they have is information from the ombudsman,” he said.
Labor Minister Jill Balser refused to order a forensic check. She said on CBC radio Main Street in Cape Breton on October 29 that his department had all the information it needed to make the decision to terminate his contract with Island Employment.
âThat’s the reason we made our decision, it was the mismanagement of fundsâ¦ So, along with our own internal review, the investigation was over,â Balser said.
MacLean said he was not concerned about the impact of a police investigation on its members, noting that it was unionized Island Employment workers who denounced the agency and triggered the ombudsman’s review .
âAs far as I know our members reported what was going on and weren’t aware of signing up for money or anything like that, so I don’t think our members are in danger,â he said. he declared.