Speaker of B.C. legislature says legal bills in spending scandal to climb over $1M

It was one year ago today the BC legislature was thrown into turmoil - when the legislative clerk and the Sergeant- at- Arms were suddenly and unceremoniously escorted out of the building. The spending scandal that's unfolded since has been unprecedented in B.C. history. Richard Zussman on where we are now and the estimated massive legal bill for B.C. taxpayers.

Speaker Darryl Plecas says once all the bills for lawyers and expert reports are added up, it will cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

The revelation comes exactly one year after former clerk Craig James and former sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz were escorted from the B.C. legislature.

Since then, allegations have been brought forward that the pair misspent millions of taxpayer dollars.

Global News exclusive: Gary Lenz breaks his silence
Global News exclusive: Gary Lenz breaks his silence

“My expectations, if we include the McLachlin Report and the LePard Report, I wouldn’t be surprised that when it’s all said and done we are paying for more than a million dollars,” Plecas said Wednesday.

“I would say it’s unfortunate we had to spend a dime. But if, at the same time, it gets us to a place that we can demonstrate we had a complete failure for transparency then that’s a good thing.”

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“How much money went through this building, taxpayers’ money, that shouldn’t have?” Plecas wondered.

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

James and Lenz have both retired.

James left after an independent investigation found he committed administrative misconduct. Former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin also found that Lenz has been cleared of any administrative wrongdoing.

Lenz retired following Doug LePard’s report that found the former sergeant-at-arms committed an “egregious breach of public trust,” concluding Lenz lied about what he knew of a 2013 incident where publicly paid-for alcohol was loaded in James’ car.

Extended interview with Gary Lenz
Extended interview with Gary Lenz

Lenz has denied all wrongdoing.

There is also an ongoing RCMP investigation that Plecas believes will wrap up in the new year.

“In what has been brought forward by whistleblowers, myself and my chief of staff, I am very confident there will be charges,” Plecas said.

“I’m not privy to every nuance, but my understanding of criminal law makes me feel there is more than enough for charges. It’s taken a long time, but of course it is because they have to be absolutely careful on how they move forward.”

Lawyers Brock Martland and David Butcher have been appointed as special prosecutors in the case, which was also announced a year ago.

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READ MORE: B.C. legislature clerk Craig James retires, found to have committed ‘administrative misconduct’

Since then, Plecas has conducted internal reports including his bombshell report released in January. The Speaker doesn’t believe his work has impeded the police investigation.

“I don’t think so because they are still talking to me,” Plecas said.

“I am feeling very confident we turned over information they took very seriously.”