ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - A Liberal member of the Newfoundland legislature has become the first politician charged in the province's multimillion-dollar legislative spending scandal.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary charged Wally Andersen, a former cabinet minister, on Monday with fraud, uttering a forged document and breach of trust. He is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 18.

Andersen, who announced last week that he will not run for re-election, is one of five politicians implicated in the scandal.

Last year, the province's auditor general alleged that the five politicians from all three major parties _ all of whom intend to leave politics _ overspent their constituency allowances by a total of $1.6 million between 1997 and 2006.

Auditor general John Noseworthy alleged that Andersen, a 55-year-old politician who was first elected in his Labrador riding in 1996, overspent his constituency allowance by $344,465.

Andersen was vague last week when he was asked whether the scandal was behind his departure from politics.

"It's always there, it's on your mind, but at the end of the day, it'll be dealt with,'' Andersen said at the time.

Noseworthy's reports, which triggered an overhaul of the legislature's accounting practices and a police investigation, exposed a lack of spending controls within the house.

The auditor general also concluded that $2.7 million in public funds may have been misappropriated to buy keepsakes such as gold rings, key chains and refrigerator magnets.

The other politicians who have been implicated are:

  • Ed Byrne, who resigned as natural resources minister after Noseworthy found he overspent $467,653 -- more than 10 times the approved limit.
  • Former NDP member Randy Collins, who the auditor general claims overspent his allowance by $358,598.
  • Former Conservative member Kathy Goudie, who was found to have double-billed the legislature by $3,818.
  • Liberal Percy Barrett, who the auditor general said overspent his constituency allowance by $117,286.