OTTAWA - Sloppy legal wording by the secretive Board of Internal Economy allowed Gilles Duceppe to misuse tax dollars on Bloc Quebecois affairs.
The all-party board found the former separatist leader used his budget "inappropriately" when he paid the salary of the party's former general director for seven years out of his taxpayer-funded House office budget.
He also used his House budget to pay a journalist to pen a book to highlight his 20 years in office.
Tory whip Gordon O'Connor, a spokesman for the board, said Tuesday that after 10 months investigating the matter it decided the wording of the bylaws governing spending were "not rigorously defined at the time."
Because of that, "the board finds it impossible to take any disciplinary action."
If Duceppe were "to be honourable" he would pay some of those funds back.
"Although they're following the letter of the law, they're not following the spirit," he said, estimating the amount at "many thousands of dollars."
O'Connor said the bylaw wording has since been tightened and he doesn't see this happening again.
"If they (did) they would be criminally liable," he said.
Duceppe said he was relieved by the board's ruling.
"It removes any doubt," he said. "And I don't like living with doubt."
Parliamentarians are given a minimum of $285,000 a year to pay for staff, office supplies, travel, hospitality and other necessary expenses to the work of MPs.
Those funds don't cover party matters, but the previous bylaws left wiggle room for undefined "partisan activities."