Legislature clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz are being accused of lacking oversight for millions of dollars and being in charge of “unjustified terminations.”
Speaker Darryl Plecas released a report Monday alleging that Lenz and James participated in “flagrant overspending on luxurious trips overseas with questionable business rationales” and “expensing of all manner of personal purchases to the legislative assembly totaling tens of thousands of dollars over a period of less than two years.”
None of the allegations have been proven but they are being taken seriously by the B.C. Legislative Assembly Management Committee.
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The committee has ordered a full forensic audit of the sergeant-at-arms’ office, the clerk’s office and the Speaker’s office.
The committee has also agreed to a workplace review of the legislature. Lenz and James have been given until Feb. 1 to respond to the allegations.
“These matters are not simply bare allegations. They are based on my personal observations, interviews with others, and where I have been able to corroborate them with reference to documents and records I could access at the legislative assembly within the time constraints that I have been working under, I have done so,” Plecas wrote in the report.
“Because my inquiry has necessarily been preliminary in nature, before the legislative assembly makes final decisions about how to address these matters, a process will need to be put in place that considers them more fully by way of interviews of additional past employees and current employees (who have not been a focus of the review conducted to date), access to all relevant records from a broader timeframe, and which provides an opportunity for Mr. James and Mr. Lenz to respond.”
In a statement released Monday evening, James and Lenz said they are “shocked” by the actions of the speaker and the committee, and maintained that no one had ever brought any of the allegations to them or given them a chance to respond.
“The Speaker has now compounded the harm to us and our families by preparing a report in secret, without any input from us, and recommended that it be released to the public to further blacken our reputations,” they wrote.
“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 pair said they intend to clear their names, and will provide a detailed response to the allegations after they have had a chance to look at them more closely.
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The information is part of what Plecas turned over to police as part of the ongoing investigation into James and Lenz.
The pair are currently on administrative leave and the legislative assembly would have to have a vote in order to change that.
The report also details “inappropriate payouts of cash in lieu of vacation” which appear to total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Plecas also details a “lack of oversight or appropriate protocols in the awarding of employment benefits, and evidence of attempts to obtain highly questionable further benefits.”
In total, Plecas is alleging the pair provided benefits for themselves in the millions of dollars. The report also details “instances where thousands of dollars of alcohol and equipment may have been misappropriated from the legislative assembly.”
Plecas also claims he has heard from former employees who said they were terminated without cause and without any notice of any problems with their work
“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,” reads the report.
“It appears that this practice of sudden without-cause terminations has fostered a culture insecurity among staff in at least some of the departments at the legislative assembly that if employees spoke up about concerns or fell out of favour they could lose their jobs without warning.”