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Manitoba Liberal charged with violating elections law, filing false statements

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WINNIPEG - The top administrator of the Manitoba Liberal Party has been charged with eight offences under the province's Elections Act.

Dennis Trochim, the party's executive director, faces five counts of knowingly providing false or misleading information and three counts of making a false or misleading statement to the elections commissioner.

Sachit Mehra, the party's acting president, said the charges stem from clerical errors Trochim made as a volunteer during the 2011 election campaign, and the party board of directors stands behind him.

"Dennis has 100 per cent owned up to the situation and taken full responsibility and complied with Elections Manitoba to the fullest extent possible," Mehra said.

Trochim declined an interview request Thursday but issued a written statement in which he cited a heavy workload.

"Overworked and overstressed, on the day I learned my father had cancer, I showed poor judgment and filed paperwork incorrectly for a rural campaign where I was official agent. It had absolutely nothing to do with money or financial impropriety," Trochim wrote.

"When the investigator began to ask questions weeks later, I was driving my father to chemotherapy and visiting him in palliative care and I wished I had the courage to deal with this matter better. I wish I had half the courage my father did as he was battling for his life. Weeks after his funeral, I went to the commissioner of elections on my own volition and disclosed everything fully."

Trochim is due in court March 14. He said he will "accept responsibility" for his actions.

As a volunteer, Trochim acted as an agent for 14 of the party's candidates. With just one legislature seat, little money and very few full-time staff, party volunteers had to juggle many tasks to recruit and field candidates in all 57 constituencies.

The maximum penalty for the charges against Trochim is a $10,000 fine and one year in jail.

Trochim is not the first person to run afoul of the law in relations to the 2011 campaign.

NDP Health Minister Theresa Oswald was found guilty by Elections Manitoba of violating a ban on government advertising in the 90-day period before election day. She took part in a media tour of a new birthing centre in south Winnipeg shortly before the campaign began.

Elections Commissioner Bill Bowles said the violation was inadvertent and the minister suffered no consequences.

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