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Former West Hants CAO receives probation for fraud, assault

<p>Cheryl Chislett, the former chief administrative officer of West Hants, leaves the Hants County Courthouse July 6 after receiving one year of probation for assault and fraud.</p>
<p>Cheryl Chislett, the former chief administrative officer of West Hants, leaves the Hants County Courthouse July 6 after receiving one year of probation for assault and fraud.</p>

WINDSOR — A gambling addiction plus a severe case of depression and anxiety were taken into consideration when the court sentenced the Municipality of West Hants' former chief administrative officer July 6.

Cheryl Chislett, 55, had previously pleaded guilty to assaulting her husband, Richard Chislett, with a hammer, and fraud in excess of $5,000.

Crown prosecutor Bill Fergusson and defence lawyer Chris Manning presented Judge Claudine MacDonald with a joint recommendation, asking for a year's probation for Chistlett.

“She's pled guilty to two very dissimilar offences,” said Manning, noting Chislett had no prior criminal record.

On June 21, 2014, “police were dispatched to a domestic disturbance in progress,” said Fergusson.

The court was told that Chislett's husband was out on the deck, playing with a grandchild, when she approached him from behind and struck him with a hammer. He was taken to the hospital and later released.

The court learned that Chislett does not have a good recollection of events prior to the assault.

“She doesn't recall how she got the hammer or how the hammer got to where it was or when she picked it up,” said Manning, noting she does have flashbacks where she “recalls seeing her husband with blood on his face.”

He said his client knew her husband took the hammer away from her and, while she's not sure what happened that day, she “does accept full responsibility for what she did.”

A doctor's report was referred to several times during the sentencing.

“In the report, (Chislett’s doctor) describes that in the weeks leading up to the event of the hammer incident, she was experiencing significant depression and anxiety. She found it intolerable to go to work,” said Manning, who said that could tie into her other charge of defrauding the municipality.

Both Manning and Fergusson noted that Chislett's husband has stood beside her throughout the court proceedings.

“Clearly, she has a remarkably supportive and caring husband who is able to look at the full picture and not just the charges before the court,” said Manning. “Mr. Chislett remains firmly behind his wife, as does his sister and other family members.”

The fraud charge was laid in April 2015. The municipality noticed irregularities in its financial records in 2014 and requested the RCMP investigate. They also had a forensic audit conducted. Chislett had been the municipality’s chief administrative officer (CAO).

“Chislett is noted to have a gambling addiction — an addiction that was out of control,” said Manning. “That certainly is, in large part, the rationale we'd expect of why money was taken from her employer.”

The Crown listed several items that had been found through the audit. Most charges were under $1,000 and were listed as personal expenses except for one charge, a $10,000 cheque made payable to a law firm in Halifax.

The fraud began in 2011 and totalled about $13,000.

The court heard that Chislett sought out treatment for her gambling addiction in the fall of 2014, as well as found personal counselling. Her lawyer said she plans to write a letter to council apologizing to the residents of West Hants for her actions.

Prior to the fraud charges being laid, Chislett signed an agreement with her employer, agreeing to pay back the amount she stole. She resigned as CAO for the municipality in September.

Since signing that document, about $30,000 in additional restitution was requested to be paid to the municipality to help cover the costs associated with the forensic audit and the circumstances involving the case.

After considering the request and the agreement that had been previously signed, the judge ruled that Chislett did not have to make any further financial restitution.

Chislett was sentenced to one year of probation, plus a $100 victim surcharge fine, which is to be paid by Aug. 25.

 

 

Cheryl Chislett, 55, had previously pleaded guilty to assaulting her husband, Richard Chislett, with a hammer, and fraud in excess of $5,000.

Crown prosecutor Bill Fergusson and defence lawyer Chris Manning presented Judge Claudine MacDonald with a joint recommendation, asking for a year's probation for Chistlett.

“She's pled guilty to two very dissimilar offences,” said Manning, noting Chislett had no prior criminal record.

On June 21, 2014, “police were dispatched to a domestic disturbance in progress,” said Fergusson.

The court was told that Chislett's husband was out on the deck, playing with a grandchild, when she approached him from behind and struck him with a hammer. He was taken to the hospital and later released.

The court learned that Chislett does not have a good recollection of events prior to the assault.

“She doesn't recall how she got the hammer or how the hammer got to where it was or when she picked it up,” said Manning, noting she does have flashbacks where she “recalls seeing her husband with blood on his face.”

He said his client knew her husband took the hammer away from her and, while she's not sure what happened that day, she “does accept full responsibility for what she did.”

A doctor's report was referred to several times during the sentencing.

“In the report, (Chislett’s doctor) describes that in the weeks leading up to the event of the hammer incident, she was experiencing significant depression and anxiety. She found it intolerable to go to work,” said Manning, who said that could tie into her other charge of defrauding the municipality.

Both Manning and Fergusson noted that Chislett's husband has stood beside her throughout the court proceedings.

“Clearly, she has a remarkably supportive and caring husband who is able to look at the full picture and not just the charges before the court,” said Manning. “Mr. Chislett remains firmly behind his wife, as does his sister and other family members.”

The fraud charge was laid in April 2015. The municipality noticed irregularities in its financial records in 2014 and requested the RCMP investigate. They also had a forensic audit conducted. Chislett had been the municipality’s chief administrative officer (CAO).

“Chislett is noted to have a gambling addiction — an addiction that was out of control,” said Manning. “That certainly is, in large part, the rationale we'd expect of why money was taken from her employer.”

The Crown listed several items that had been found through the audit. Most charges were under $1,000 and were listed as personal expenses except for one charge, a $10,000 cheque made payable to a law firm in Halifax.

The fraud began in 2011 and totalled about $13,000.

The court heard that Chislett sought out treatment for her gambling addiction in the fall of 2014, as well as found personal counselling. Her lawyer said she plans to write a letter to council apologizing to the residents of West Hants for her actions.

Prior to the fraud charges being laid, Chislett signed an agreement with her employer, agreeing to pay back the amount she stole. She resigned as CAO for the municipality in September.

Since signing that document, about $30,000 in additional restitution was requested to be paid to the municipality to help cover the costs associated with the forensic audit and the circumstances involving the case.

After considering the request and the agreement that had been previously signed, the judge ruled that Chislett did not have to make any further financial restitution.

Chislett was sentenced to one year of probation, plus a $100 victim surcharge fine, which is to be paid by Aug. 25.

 

 

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