VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Solicitor General Mike Farnworth revealed the findings of retired judge Beverley McLachlin’s independent fact-finding probe into the conduct of Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz at the B.C. Legislature on Thursday.
The investigation, Farnworth said, found James did engage in misconduct, saying he made expense claims for improper purchases, and removed and used legislative property.
James has now retired, effective immediately, and a non-monetary settlement has been reached.
James and Lenz were suspended with pay in November after they were accused of lavish spending on the public’s dime. Both James and Lenz denied the accusations, calling the situation inaccurate and illogical.
McLachlin was brought in earlier this year to weigh if the two officers knowingly received pay and expenses they shouldn’t have and if they knowingly used work property for non-work purposes.
Her investigation has cleared Lenz, noting he did not engage in misconduct but he remains on leave. An RCMP probe launched last year is still underway.
In a letter, James confirmed his retirement.
“I have been publicly ridiculed and vilified. My family has been deeply hurt and continues to suffer humiliation. In an effort to put an end to that, I have decided to retire, and reach a settlement with the Legislative Assembly.”
He added he believes the public has a right to know the full details of the investigation, including the submissions and documents that were not included in the final report.
Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz told NEWS 1130 he is happy to be exonerated, and has a date set for an interview with police.
“I’m very thankful for all the prayers and all the support that has come out from so many people over these last six months. I feel very happy and very glad that this is where we are today.”
Lenz said despite the immense harm to his reputation from the allegations, he wants to return to work once the police investigation is over.
“It’s been harmful to my life and to my family but I believe in the institution, I believe in democracy, I believe in the justice system, and I know Darryl Plecas, the speaker of the house, believes the same.”
Farnworth said in the Legislature that there is more to come.
“I note also that a comprehensive audit, led by the Auditor General, is currently underway and a workplace review and organizational reconciliation are forthcoming,” he said.
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Speaker Darryl Plecas spoke in the halls of the Legislature a short time later.
“Where we want to be is to be able to say, if you’re talking hiring and firing practices, we’re the same as every other part of government,” he said. “We want to make sure that people who have concerns, whistleblowers or whatever, have access to the Ombudsperson. I would expect we will soon have that.”
Speaker who brought allegations reprimanded
The speaker who brought forward allegations of misspending against the two top officers of the B.C. Legislature didn’t escape unscathed in the report.
During her review, Beverley McLachlin asked why Plecas didn’t bring his concerns to the officers before dramatically expelling them from the building.
She also admonishes the speaker for acting more like a police officer than an administrator. But would he do things differently now?
“No, absolutely not. I am reminded that I am not the first person who has raised concerns. Previous auditor generals have sought an administrative approach. Whistleblowers have sought an administrative approach. That didn’t seem to work very well,” Plecas says.
“Some of the misconduct revealed by McLachlin happened before my time. So all I did was bring it to light – could I have gone another route? That’s a very complicated situation.”
Ultimately, Plecas says he did what he thought was right and feels vindicated, even though he thinks McLachlin did leave some stones unturned.
“Her time limits, I would say, did not afford an opportunity for her to interview everyone that we thought might have been interviewed or leads that came up where there was an opportunity to do a full follow-up.”
Read the full report here:McLachlinReport