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Politics

B.C. premier defends chief of staff for shredding documents related to legislature scandal

B.C. Premier John Horgan and his chief of staff Geoff Meggs are under fire over findings that the premier's office shredded a document linked to the legislative spending scandal. Keith Baldrey reports.

B.C. Premier John Horgan and his chief of staff Geoff Meggs are under fire over findings that the premier’s office shredded a document associated with the legislative spending scandal.

The report by Doug LePard, released on Tuesday, concluded Meggs met with Speaker Darryl Plecas, his chief of staff Alan Mullen and NDP MLA Raj Chouhan on July 30, 2018. Clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz were not removed from the legislature until the end of November.

“I asked my chief of staff to take the meeting. He did. When he saw the information he said it should immediately go to the police. My office is not an investigatory body,” Horgan said.

READ MORE: B.C.’s former sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz accused of ‘egregious breach of trust’

Horgan says he turned down the meeting himself because it is not his role as premier and because of his history with James.

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“I voted against the appointment of Craig James for a myriad of reasons. I felt if there were allegations of wrongdoing, if I was involved there could be a perception of bias,” Horgan said.

Plecas brought multiple copies of a draft of his report containing various allegations against James. That report was left behind and later shredded by Meggs.

Legislature sergeant-at-arms resigns
Legislature sergeant-at-arms resigns

“As we later learned, many of the allegations turned out to be unsubstantiated,” Meggs wrote in a statement. “I was in no position to verify the allegations, and the Premier’s Office is rightly not involved in administration of the Legislative Assembly.

“For those reasons, and because of the seriousness of the allegations, I urged the Speaker to provide his information to the police. I was later advised by Deputy Speaker Raj Choujan that the Speaker had done so.”

The RCMP are still investigating the accusations.

Both James and Lenz have resigned from their positions. Government House Leader Mike Farnworth says Lenz will not receive a severance package or additional compensation beyond what he is owed.

BC Legislature receives McLachlin report on staffer spending scandal
BC Legislature receives McLachlin report on staffer spending scandal

“There is no agreement whatsoever,” Farnworth said.

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson is asking for Meggs to be terminated. In a letter to the premier, Wilkinson says he has a “serious concern” regarding Meggs’ conduct.

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Wilkinson says Meggs should have immediately brought forward evidence to the police following the meeting and to the three House Leaders who, as the elected officials, are responsible and accountable for the proper management of the legislature and are the appropriate authorities to address such a matter.

READ MORE: B.C. sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz resigns days before Police Act investigation to be released

“Mr. Meggs has admitted to shredding the evidence presented to him. This is indefensible, as it is his obligation to bring possible criminal activity to the attention of the police,” Wilkinson said.

“Mr. Meggs’ conduct is an inexcusable obstruction of the judicial process. We are calling for you as Premier to put your friendship aside, do what is right for the people of British Columbia, and immediately terminate your Chief of Staff, Geoff Meggs.”

But Wilkinson is also facing questions about one of his own caucus members.

Liberal MLA Linda Reid declined through her legal counsel to be interviewed for the LePard report, telling LePard that Lenz had not informed her in 2013 of the liquor incident involving Mr. James. She declined to respond to questions about whether she had knowledge of the incident from other sources.

Reid was the Speaker at the time of the liquor incident.

“Everyone who is asked to cooperate in this investigation should do so,” Wilkinson said.

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LePard concluded Lenz lied about what he knew of a 2013 incident where publicly paid for alcohol was loaded in James’ car.