On Monday, as promised, B.C.’s Speaker for the legislative assembly Darryl Plecas produced a report concerning allegations of misconduct by senior officers of the B.C. legislative assembly (Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz) that was subsequently released by the legislative assembly Management Committee.
Plecas had previously warned that the contents of the report would outrage the public and “make them throw up.” If they didn’t, Plecas — who took the post on Sept. 8, 2017 — said he would resign as Speaker. None of the allegations in the 76-page report are criminal in nature.
Postmedia News has gone through the report and highlighted some of the more disturbing claims.
• The booze: Plecas wrote that early in his term he noticed the Speaker had a cabinet in their office and some outside that were full of government-supplied liquor. “It had been my previous experience that the government does not pay for alcohol for staff or members’ personal consumption, so this was surprising to me,” Plecas wrote. He stated that eight months after Plecas became Speaker, Lenz told him that in 2013 James had ordered legislative staff to load $10,000 worth of alcohol paid for by the legislative assembly onto his truck. The alcohol was apparently left over from a conference or event that the clerk hosted and was placed in a basement vault from which it was later loaded into the truck. Plecas wants this claim investigated.
• The trips: In Dec. 2017, Plecas, James and Lenz went on a trip to the UK to, among other things, purchase a speaker’s hat. Plecas claims that once he got there he realized there was no real need for the trip and that James and Lenz each bought themselves clothes and souvenirs which were paid for by the taxpayer. “Throughout the trip, I was very surprised at how luxuriously we were travelling and how little we were doing for a work trip,” Plecas wrote. He said that in February 2018, at a cost to the legislative assembly of more than $14,000, James went back to the UK for the “ostensible purpose of meeting with the editors of another textbook on Parliamentary Practice.” On a June trip to China, Plecas said James claimed his full $200 per day per diem, despite eating mostly for free courtesy of their Chinese hosts. He said James also expensed a $1,140 piece of luggage. On another UK trip in August, to observe an “anti-terrorism exercise,” Plecas said James bought himself a suit, which was claimed as a uniform and was paid for by the taxpayer, and noted that James and Lenz both travelled with their wives.
• The skullduggery: Despite working closely together, travelling together and spending time off work together, Plecas claims Lenz wanted to get James removed from office and was campaigning for that, always adding when he raised the topic, that “we don’t want an audit and we don’t want outside police involved.” Plecas also revealed “The Speaker has heard from a number of former employees who said they were terminated without cause and without any notice of any problems with their work or apparent reason why they were being fired. Witnesses spoke of other employees who they understood were similarly treated, and of those who were seen to have raised concerns with expenses or financial management and were terminated.”
• The woodsplitter: Plecas claims, based on comments from the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms, that a $3,000 woodsplitter and $10,000 trailer had been purchased by the legislative assembly and were instead delivered to James home for private use. In December, James’ lawyer told Plecas that he wanted to return the woodsplitter to the Legislative Assemby, but the RCMP have intervened and now have the machine. The trailer has also been returned. Plecas said James’ lawyer told him James had been “holding the woodsplitter” and that it had been purchased in case some trees fell down on the legislature property.
• The subscriptions and other things: According to Plecas, James, at the taxpayers expense to the tune of thousands, has subscriptions to, among other publications, Palm Springs Life, Popular Mechanics and Wired. He said that James has in the past claimed $658 for a camera, $504 for headphones and has been reimbursed for souvenirs purchased while on his government trips.
• Vacation days: Plecas wrote “Multiple witnesses with relevant first-hand knowledge informed the Speaker that both Mr. James and Mr. Lenz make a regular practice of receiving payment in lieu of their vacation days. Witnesses also stated that Mr. James and Mr. Lenz appeared to regularly take time off and holidays, but often do not record these as official vacation days. In Mr. James’ case, for example, it was observed by a number of witnesses that he was rarely to be seen at work on Fridays.” Records show Lenz took no vacation days in 2015 and 2016 and instead got paid out.
• The skills training. Plecas questions $20,000 in education expenses that have been paid by the taxpayer for Lenz since 2016 and the many overnight trips to Vancouver that were study related and also paid for by the taxpayer.
• The Clerk’s wage. According to Plecas, the Clerk’s wage is supposed to be set at or around the wage of the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia. This however is not the case. For the year ended March, 2018, James earned $347,090 compared the chief judge’s wage of $293,440. For the previous year the discrepancy was $307,892 for the clerk and $282,567 for the chief judge.
In a statement, James and Lenz have responded to the allegations, saying there were “shocked” at having the report released without anyone asking them to respond to the allegations and explain the spending.
“We are only now able to read the allegations for the first time and we are confident that time will show that they are completely false and untrue,” said the statement.
The pair have been ordered to submit a written response to the Speaker’s report and allegations by Feb. 1.
The full report can be read below.