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Report calls for end of B.C.’s legislative assembly police force, changes to sergeant-at-arms job

Alan Mullen, chief of staff to Speaker Darryl Plecas, speaks to reporters.
Alan Mullen, chief of staff to Speaker Darryl Plecas, speaks to reporters. Richard Zussman/Global News

The chief of staff to B.C.’s Speaker of the Legislative Assembly is calling for the job of sergeant-at-arms to be turned into a ceremonial position.

In a 55-page report obtained by Global News, Alan Mullen writes that the position should be “recast as a primarily ceremonial and perhaps sessional role” and that a new, director role could oversee security at the legislature.

“There is no reason for the ceremonial, security and facilities responsibilities at the legislative assembly to be assigned to the same person,” Mullen writes.

“British Columbia should follow the lead of Quebec and some of the American jurisdictions surveyed and divide the roles to allow better specializations and expertise within each.”

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Top issues dominating the B.C. legislature sitting

READ MORE: B.C. Speaker’s office promises more reports, while lawyers raise red flags about possible convictions

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The report was finished on Jan. 14 and has not been released publicly. The Legislative Assembly Management Committee has a copy of the report.

The sergeant-at-arms heads up security at the legislature as well as mail screening and delivery. The role also plays a prominent role in the legislative chamber itself, providing security for MLAs.

The job pays $226,467 a year and the hire must be approved by MLAs.

The recommendation stems from concerns Mullen and Speaker Darryl Plecas have raised.

“Currently there are no plans at this point to make any changes. We have received the report and it has not been discussed,” Government House Leader Mike Farnworth said.

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In a report published last year, Plecas detailed frequent cases of misuse of public funds from both former sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and former clerk Craig James.

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Both Lenz and James have retired from their previous positions. There are two special prosecutors assigned to investigate the accusations made in the Plecas Report.

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

Mullen is also recommending the legislative assembly should “engage an external organizational consultant” to transition Legislative Assembly Protective Services (LAPS) from a “policing model” to a “security model,” a change that would expand unarmed civilian roles and reduce training requirements.

LAPS currently employs 38 special provincial constables.

The report describes training as “expensive” and states a “constant staffing model” leads to high overtime costs.

Mullen estimates the changes would save more than $1 million a year.

READ MORE: B.C. Speaker’s office under fire for spending $13,000 on 10-city tour to discuss security

Liberal MLA Jas Johal raised concerns last summer over the more than $13,000 in taxpayer money Mullen spent to travel to 10 provincial and U.S. state capitals to complete the report.

Mullen visited government buildings in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to discuss security at those buildings.

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B.C. Speaker under fire for expensive chief of staff trip
B.C. Speaker under fire for expensive chief of staff trip

“We have spent $13,000 so Mr. Mullen could have his excellent summer adventure subsidized by taxpayers,” Johal said at the time.

“These are routine issues that could have been dealt with within B.C., and I don’t know why Alan Mullen needed to travel across Canada and to seven U.S. states.”

In the report, Mullen compares B.C. and other jurisdictions, including places he visited and places he didn’t.

In most U.S. state capitol buildings the sergeant-at-arms is a ceremonial position and someone else is in charge of security.

“As legislatures have grown in modern times, it appears the expectations placed on sergeant-at-arms have expanded commensurately,” Mullen writes.

“That is not necessarily healthy, however: at present, job requirements and expectations for the role may be considered in some instances to border on the absurd.”

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