Questions are lingering as to why the chief of staff to B.C. Speaker Darryl Plecas, Alan Mullen, spent more than $13,000 in taxpayer money to travel to 10 different provincial capitals and state legislatures.
Mullen went to government buildings in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington — all to discuss security at those buildings.
“We have spent $13,000 so Mr. Mullen could have his excellent summer adventure subsidized by taxpayers,” Liberal MLA Jas Johal said.
“These are routine issues that could have been dealt with within B.C., and I don’t know why Alan Mullen needed to travel across Canada and to seven U.S. states.”
Mullen nor Plecas would do an interview with Global News. Mullen says he will comment once his report on the trip is released in September.
The trip was originally budgeted to cost $10,000. The costs associated with the trip include mileage, hotels and per diems, which are all standard costs associated with legislature travel.
Spending watchdog Dermod Travis from Integrity BC says he will hold judgment on the merit of the trip until after seeing the report.
But he says all trips of this nature should have budgets and travel plans publicly approved before they start.
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“There needs to be some consideration in the Speaker’s office that Mr. Mullen has rightly or wrongly become a bit of a lightning rod,” Travis said.
“The B.C. Government [and Service] Employees’ Union has a excellent travel policy. Why not adopt that for B.C. legislature staff, so everyone can see the budgeting and where money could be saved?”
Mullen was at the centre of Plecas’ investigation into misspending allegations against clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz.
James retired after he was found to have committed “administrative misconduct.” Lenz is currently on leave with pay and is the subject of two ongoing investigations.
The Speaker’s report provided numerous examples of alleged misspending on international trips.
Even though Mullen visited Alberta and Saskatchewan during his trip, he did not meet with either legislature’s sergeant-at-arms, who would be the chief security official for the building.
Officials in Ontario did not say who Mullen met with or what was discussed.
In St. Paul, Minn., Mullen met with Chief Sergeant Bob Meyerson of the Minnesota State of Representatives. Meyerson would not go into any details of the trip but described it as a “nice meeting.”
“He wanted to know how we administer the sergeant-at-arms office here,” Meyerson said. “We met for an hour and then he toured the capitol building.”
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In Oregon, Mullen had a series of meetings that also included a tour of the state capitol building. The general running of the Oregon legislature, security for members and staff, and how the Speaker’s office overlaps with the clerk’s office were discussed.
In both meetings Mullen had an associate with him. The Speaker’s office has confirmed the associate did not concur any additional costs to B.C. taxpayers.
“He didn’t indicate what the end goals were, and he said it was about fact finding and we wanted to share with him how we function,” the Oregon legislature’s deputy chief clerk Obie Rutledge said.