B.C. legislature Clerk Craig James (left) retired in 2019 after accusations by Speaker Darryl Plecas were substantiated. (The Canadian Press)

B.C. legislature Clerk Craig James (left) retired in 2019 after accusations by Speaker Darryl Plecas were substantiated. (The Canadian Press)

Former B.C. Legislature clerk charged with fraud, breach of trust

James made his first appearance at Victoria Courthouse Friday

Former B.C. legislature clerk Craig James has been charged as part of a special police probe into allegations of misspending in their travel, expenses and operation as the top administrators.

On Friday (Dec. 18), special prosecutors David Butcher and Brock Martin announced that James has been charged with four counts of breach of trust by a public officer and two counts of fraud over $5,000. The charges were filed Thursday, and James made his first appearance in the Victoria Courthouse Friday.

In November 2018, the BC Prosecution Service announced it would be appointing special prosecutors to investigate allegations that James used his position to advance his own personal interests over the public good.

READ MORE: Former chief justice investigates B.C. legislature

READ MORE: B.C. legislature clerk retires after wrongdoing found

Former B.C. legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas went to police with his findings after going on trips in 2017 with James and former sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz. MLAs quickly voted to suspend both with pay, and they were escorted out of the building by Victoria Police officers. Plecas later released his findings, detailing a trip with stops at British and Scottish parliaments, St. Andrews golf course and shopping for legislature uniforms and luggage in London.

That triggered investigations by an MLA committee on handling expenses, and former Supreme Court of Canada chief justice Beverley McLachlin was hired to review the situation. James retired in 2019 after McLachlin found that he had improperly claimed benefits and used legislature property for personal reasons. She concluded that Lenz had not engaged in misconduct.

In February 2019, the MLA committee that oversees the legislature’s $70 million operating budget released a second report from Plecas, detailing further allegations involving a trip to Seattle by a group of officials including James, Lenz and their spouses, for a group described as devoted to emergency preparedness. Events included a visit to Safeco Field, including 13 tickets to a Seattle Mariners game, and three “working dinners” in Washington where taxpayers were billed more than $4,500 in expenses.

Another outing of the group in Victoria was described by James as a “tsunami watch” tour of Haro and Juan de Fuca Straits. Plecas said it was actually a whale watching tour.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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