Clerk Craig James has retired after an independent investigation found he committed administrative misconduct.
Former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin also found that sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz has been cleared of any administrative wrongdoing.
“I have had enough,” James wrote in a statement. “I have been publicly ridiculed and vilified. My family has been deeply hurt and continues to suffer humiliation. In an effort to put an end to that, I have decided to retire, and reach a settlement with the Legislative Assembly.
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“When the Speaker’s allegations were finally disclosed to me, I had much to say about them. I provided detailed written submissions and supporting documents, all of which are in the possession of the Legislative Assembly, many of which are not referred to or addressed in the Special Investigator’s Report, and almost none of which are likely known to the public or the press at this time.”
The decision was made based on the findings from the McLachlin Report that was submitted earlier this month.
Lenz is still on administrative leave with pay. He asked to be reinstated to his job but was told a decision could not be made on that until the ongoing police investigation is wrapped up.
LISTEN: Interview with Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz
The sergeant-at-arms says he will fully cooperate with the investigation and hopes to return to work. Lenz says he has no plans on suing the legislature or the Speaker although he feels the Plecas Report severely damaged his reputation.
“It was very difficult to comprehend how these allegations could be put in such a way it harmed myself, my family and my friends,” Lenz said.
“I’m not the type of person who holds on to the past, we need to look forward.”
McLachlin found James engaged in misconduct in relation to expensing two suits, three purchases of luggage and private insurance premiums. The former chief justice also found James engaged in misconduct by the creation of retirement benefits, removing alcohol from the legislature and keeping a wood splitter for personal use.
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The report looked into the findings of the Plecas Report, the response from both James and Lenz, as well as Plecas’ rebuttal.
Both senior officers of the B.C. legislature were put on leave with pay in November 2018.
Through his own investigation, Plecas and his chief of staff Alan Mullen found James misspent public funds by charging taxpayers for expensive luggage, sight-seeing trips to Scotland, baseball tickets in Seattle and purchasing a wood splitter for personal use.
Plecas’ report, which was released in January, alleged 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.”
“This is a positive first step. We still have some ways to go,” Plecas said on Thursday.
“I am very confident that at the end of the day we will be in a place where we operate the same as government.”
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The RCMP are still investigating whether any of the accusations were criminal. James and Lenz have denied any wrongdoing.
The legislature is currently conducting a workplace review stemming from allegations raised by Plecas. Former legislature staff have come forward alleging James fired them because they raised concerns about the clerk.
Auditor General Carol Bellringer is in the midst of a forensic audit looking into the legislature’s books.
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Plecas himself was criticized in the report. McLachlin found the Speaker “viewed the matters that concerned him through the lens of a police investigation and criminal prosecution, rather than the lens of an administrator.
“He seems to have seen his task as to build a credible criminal-type case against Mr. James and Mr. Lenz, rather than promptly confronting and correcting the administrative practices that he questioned,” writes McLachlin.
“He focused on an investigatory line of inquiry at the expense of his duty to ensure that the affairs of the Legislative Assembly were properly administered on a current basis.”
McLachlin was asked to investigate five separate allegations against Lenz and James and whether they amounted to misconduct:
- If they improperly (and knowingly) received improper payouts of vacation pay by reason of their failure to record vacation leave;
- If they improperly made purchases of a personal nature and expensed them to the legislature;
- If they improperly claimed and received retirement allowances;
- If they improperly removed legislature assets and property; and
- If they improperly used legislature property beyond an incidental or reasonable work-related purpose.