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Infamous B.C. legislature wood splitter seized again by RCMP

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The infamous wood splitter purchased with taxpayer money that became the symbol of B.C.’s legislature spending scandal has been seized again by the RCMP.

Alan Mullen, chief of staff to B.C. Speaker Daryl Plecas, said police reached out Wednesday about taking the splitter and its associated trailer, and picked the items up Thursday morning.

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

“[Police] have simply said they would like custody of those items, I mean, obviously we’ve seen from the reports we’ve issued as well as statements those items are part of the investigation,” Mullen told Global News Friday.
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The wood splitter was possibly the most eye-catching item on a list of questionable expenses Plecas unearthed in a bombshell 2019 report that eventually cost former legislature clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz their jobs.

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The wood splitter was initially seized from James’ Vancouver Island property in 2018 when police began investigating the matter and James and Lenz were — at the time — mysteriously put on leave.

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

It was later released to the legislature, where it has remained ever since.

“It is still owned by the people of British Columbia, obviously, but right now as part of the investigation the RCMP have taken custody,” said Mullen.

“It hasn’t been used since it’s been on the legislative precinct, there is no need for it on the precinct, there wasn’t when it was purchased and there’s not now.”

The splitter cost $3,200.91 and the trailer was $10,029.60.

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In his defence, James said the wood splitter was 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.

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READ MORE: The top 10 standout expenses from Darryl Plecas’ report looking into the clerk and sergeant-at-arms

Other items detailed in Plecas’ report included high-end suits and watches, a luggage set, digital subscriptions and travel.

James retired after an independent investigation by former chief justice Beverly McLachlin found he committed administrative misconduct.

That report cleared Lenz of any wrongdoing, but he later retired following another report by former Vancouver deputy police chief Doug LePard that found he had committed an “egregious breach of public trust,” by lying about a 2013 incident where publicly paid-for alcohol was loaded in James’ car.

An RCMP investigation into the matter remains ongoing.