B.C. legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas has released a 76-page report on his allegations of financial irregularities that details overseas trips, cash payouts and misuse of “thousands of dollars of alcohol and equipment.”
Plecas convened the Legislative Assembly Management Committee Monday, where members voted to release the report so the public can understand why he arranged the suspension of clerk Craig James and sergeant at arms Gary Lenz, the two senior administrators of the B.C. legislature.
James and Lenz issued a statement late Monday, denying the report and calling its public release without contacting them an effort to “further blacken our reputations.
“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,” the statement says.
Also late in the day, the speaker’s office released a series of “exhibits,” copies of expense claims and other documents to back up the report.
Members of the all-party committee voted to bring in an auditor-general from outside B.C. to review the operations of the legislature, including employee human resources practices. They also voted to ask lawyers representing James and Lenz to respond to the allegations.
— Tom Fletcher (@tomfletcherbc) January 21, 2019
“Based on what I had seen and heard, I believed that there was a real possibility that crimes may have been committed, and I felt obligated to bring those matters to the attention of the RCMP,” Plecas wrote in the report.
• “flagrant overspending on luxurious trips overseas with questionable business rationales”
• “inappropriate payouts of cash in lieu of vacation, which appears to total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars”
• the purchase of a wood splitter, billed to the legislature but delivered to James’ home
Plecas describes his first overseas trip to Britain, soon after he became speaker in the fall of 2017. He said James told him they were to attend several meetings, including one with the MI5 security service.
Plecas said the trip began by checking into the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, “a very expensive hotel across the river from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament,” where there were several “meet and greet” meetings without substantive business discussed.
The trip included a visit to the store that makes ceremonial robes for the House of Lords, where he ordered a new Speaker’s hat, and Lenz and James ordered suits, including one that cost $1,157 that Plecas said was expensed to the legislature.
The report also describes a split between Lenz and James, where Lenz is said to have suggested to Plecas that James be removed from office for his management practices.
B.C. NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said he is “shocked” with the report and the documentation supplied with it, and he expects the public will agree.
— Tom Fletcher (@tomfletcherbc) January 22, 2019
B.C. Liberal house leader Mary Polak said she supports the idea passed unanimously by the committee, to invite an auditor general from another province to review the state of the B.C. legislature’s $70 million operating budget.