Clerk and sergeant-at-arms defend themselves against allegations in leaked documents
Clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz deny wrongdoing and have both submitted long explanations for the allegations of misspending put forward in a report by Speaker Darryl Plecas last month.
The pair handed over separate defense reports to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC) on Thursday, which were leaked to the Vancouver Sun and published in full on Friday.
The Plecas report accuses the pair of elaborate overspending including the purchase of a wood splitter and trailer, as well as expenses for suits, luggage and watches. The report also points out retirement allowances for employees who haven’t retired and huge pay outs for unused vacation time.
“As you are aware, I have only had access to minimal records and have not had any access to my staff. My response reflects my best efforts, relying primarily on my memory, to answer the allegations against me,” Lenz wrote.
“The report contains unfounded allegations of wrongdoing, and is an unwarranted stain on my character. The allegations against me are mistaken.”
James says he is disappointed that the issues raised in the report were not discussed or raised with him. The clerk added that he had no chance to explain his side of the story before his “reputation was demolished.”
“The report goes out of its way to smear my character. It refers to historical and long since resolved issues,” James writes.
“It contains anonymous and particularized assertions. It contains opinion and innuendo which are neither accurate, nor fair. It attributes statements to me which I never made and conduct in which I never engaged.”
James’ response is 24 pages and touches on the main accusations in the Plecas Report. Lenz provided a lengthier response that also includes an appendix.
“It has been impossible for me to respond to each and every sentence in the report in the time that you have given me. As a result, I have attempted to identify what appear to be the main allegations in the report,” James wrote.
WATCH: Clerk and sergeant-at-arm of the legislature respond to Plecas report
As for returning to work, both men said they wanted want to come back to the legislature. As for whether they could work with Plecas as the speaker, Lenz responds that he would make it work.
“I will be able to continue to work with the Speaker. I am a professional and will continue to treat the Office of the Speaker with respect,” Lenz wrote.
Woodsplitter and trailer
In his response, James explains that the purchase of the $3,200.91 wood splitter and the $10,029.60 trailer was approved by the legislature’s audit working group. James also indicates in his response that it was also potentially approved by Plecas himself.
WATCH: Digging deep into the Plecas report on alleged financial mismanagement at the B.C. Legislature
James details that items were purchased for “earthquake preparedness and disaster recovery” and could be used to rescue people and also for firewood if there was no heat in the legislature building.
The clerk explains the two items were at his house being stored until a concrete pad could be built on the legislative grounds.
Plecas accused James and Lenz of expensing a $1,200 suit that was described to the Speaker as a “uniform.”
In responding to the allegation, James wrote that the speaker approved the itinerary for the trip and the suit was part of a process to modernize the dress code for senior legislature staff.
James and Lenz wore “expensive gowns” as James described it.
Relationship with BC Liberals
The Plecas report alleges that James was a BC Liberal partisan who spent tax money in a non-partisan position to visit high profile Liberals for political reasons.
James fires back in a war of words by saying that Plecas favoured the NDP and once told the clerk he “did not want to upset the NDP.”
On the allegations former Liberal staffer Connor Gibson, who alleged MLA Linda Reid filed inappropriate expenses, James alleges that an independent review found Gibson was mistaken.
The Plecas report does include some information about the independent review. Reid has told Global News that she has never filed inaccurate expenses.
WATCH: Calls for ‘house cleaning’ in reaction to Plecas report by B.C. political leaders
One of the standout parts of the Plecas Report was a purchase of a $1,100 suitcase at the Hong Kong airport.
In his response to the report, James says he bought the luggage after a request was made by MLAs that luggage be available at the legislature for official travel.
Some MLAs have come forward since the report and said they were unaware that pool luggage was ever available.
Headphones and watch
The Plecas report details that James expensed $504.44 for Bose noise-cancelling headphones.
The clerk says the headphones were purchased because he has a condition which causes ear problems when flying.
James explains in his response that the headphones help that condition. It is unclear in the report why he couldn’t have purchased less expensive headphones or spent his own money.
Plecas also alleges that James purchased watches at the House of Commons gift shop in London. James says Plecas himself wanted the watch.
“Two were protocol gifts, to be presented to people who provide exemplary service to the legislative assembly, typically at retirement,” wrote James.
The clerk alleges the third watch was purchased at the direction of the Speaker.
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