The B.C. Speaker has launched a second investigation into the conduct of the legislature’s Sergeant-at-Arms, even though he was cleared by an earlier probe into allegations of questionable overseas travel, inappropriate expense claims and benefits.
Late last year, Gary Lenz and former legislature clerk Craig James were accused by Speaker Darryl Plecas of misspending of legislature funds. While an external review by former Supreme Court of Canada chief justice Beverley McLachlin concluded that Mr. James engaged in misconduct, she cleared Mr. Lenz.
Mr. Lenz’s lawyer said he would not comment on the specifics of the new probe other than to emphasize that Ms. McLachlin has already worked on the issue. Mr. Lenz is currently under suspension from his position in the legislature.
“[Gary Lenz] was cleared of all wrongdoing by the former chief justice of Canada,” he said.
However, the BC Liberal member of the legislative management committee, which handles the administration of the complex, said Mr. Plecas appears to have taken issue with the former chief justice’s work.
“It essentially, in my view, is plowing up old ground that Ms. McLachlin had looked at. He believes he has more information than she had,” Mary Polak said.
There was no response from the Speaker’s office to a request for comment.
Ms. McLachlin spent two months conducting her review and released the results this past May, concluding that Mr. James repeatedly engaged in misconduct to enrich himself. Mr. James subsequently retired.
However, she cleared Mr. Lenz of misconduct. He remains on paid leave as probes are under way into both men, including an RCMP investigation and a review by the province’s Auditor-General.
Both Mr. James and Mr. Lenz were marched out of the legislature last November under a police escort.
When Mr. Lenz was cleared in May, he told reporters, “I’ve always said I’ve done nothing wrong. My goal is to return to work, and I understand there is a process and we have to respect that.”
He said Mr. Plecas’s original allegations “caused immeasurable damage” to his reputation but that he could still work with the Speaker.
Ms. Polak said it was odd that Ms. McLachlin’s findings had not resolved the Speaker’s concerns about the Sergeant-at-Arms.
“If the investigation of the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada isn’t sufficient, I am not really sure who can be more credible than that," Ms. Polak said. "Are we simply redoing the same investigation?
Ed May, director of caucus communication for the BC NDP, said Monday that he could only say the focus of the probe was a human-resources issue and a “non-criminal investigation.” He added that the results of the review will be released to the legislative management committee, which has representatives of all parties in the House.
Ms. Polak said the probe is being conducted by Doug LePard, a former chief of the Metro Vancouver Transit Police.
Ms. Polak said the Speaker sent a memo to the legislative management committee after his key aide, Alan Mullen, had launched the investigation, which began after Ms. McLachlin’s probe had concluded.
Ms. Polak said Monday that she would send a letter to the committee this week seeking further details into the probe, including terms of reference, the timelines and other details of what is being investigated.
Ms. Polak said the next committee meeting isn’t until September.
Sonia Fursteneau, House Leader for the BC Green caucus and a member of the legislative management committee, said in a statement that there are few details on the new investigation, so it would not be appropriate to comment now.