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Criminal investigation linked to sudden paid leave for two key B.C. legislature officials

Last Updated Nov 21, 2018 at 7:14 am PDT

Summary

Legislature clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz have been suspended with pay pending an investigation

The suspension was announced by Solicitor General Mike Farnworth Tuesday morning

Farnworth did not explain the reasons for the investigation

VICTORIA – Two key officials at British Columbia’s legislature have been placed on indefinite leave amid an RCMP investigation that dates back to September.

NDP House Leader Mike Farnworth introduced a motion at the end of question period Tuesday, announcing both clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz have been placed on administrative leave.

“I can confirm that there has been a special prosecutor assigned. I can confirm that there is an active and ongoing criminal investigation by the RCMP,” said Alan Mullen, a special advisor with the Speaker’s office.

James and Lenz walked out of the legislature separately and left the parking lot together in a vehicle driven by Lenz.

The sergeant-at-arms is responsible for maintaining order in the legislative chamber and other areas used for the business of the house.

The clerk of the house gives non-partisan advice to the Speaker and can be consulted on procedural matters, as well maintaining a record of all the legislature’s proceedings.

Premier John Horgan says this is shocking information, but he can’t disclose details about the RCMP investigation.

“I am certainly very concerned whatever investigation is underway is completed as quickly as possible for the individuals involved, but also for our institutions. I do take great comfort in the fact that our legislature continues to function, bills will be passed and that speaks to the strength of our institutions.”

In an email to NEWS 1130, police confirmed they are aware of what took place at the BC legislature on Tuesday.

“The RCMP has an active investigation underway, with respect to allegations pertaining to their administrative duties, and we are not in a position to provide any other details or specific,” RCMP wrote. “Given the nature and the roles of the individuals involved, the RCMP sought the appointment of a Special Prosecutor.”

The Assistant Deputy Attorney General for the BC Prosecution Service received a request from the RCMP back on Sept. 28, to consider appointing a Special Prosecutor to provide police with legal advice.

“Given the potential size and scope of the investigation, the ADAG determined that two Special Prosecutors would be appointed,” read a statement from the BC Prosecution Service.

Two prominent Vancouver lawyers, Brock Martland and David Butcher, were appointed on October 1st to work independent from the government, the Ministry of Attorney General and the BC Prosecution Service.

Their mandate includes determining if charges should be approved.

Appointment of special prosecutors suggests a large investigation: legal analyst

NEWS 1130 legal analyst Michael Shapray says the appointment of two special prosecutors suggests the scope of this investigation is large.

“The investigation started and it was only now that they became satisfied there was enough to release the information that they took and that they have more evidence than they had when they started the investigation,” Shapray said.

He adds the outcome could be significant if no charges are approved because the names of these two men are forever attached to this investigation.

“It’s not uncommon for people to be in the news when they are public figures. Unfortunately, sometimes, that’s all that the public remembers. I always hope, in my role as a defense counsel, some consideration has been given to the impact of the allegations themselves.”

Shapray says he can’t speculate on whether Lenz and James suddenly being put on leave — nearly two months after two special prosecutors were appointed — suggest charges are likely.

“It may be that it’s a sign of them being prudent before they took this step…. I certainly could see how someone could determine there is something that is being examined more fully — more than just a base allegation at this point.”