An independent investigation under the B.C. Police Act has concluded that a senior official of the B.C. Legislature repeatedly did not tell the truth when questioned about the spending scandal that has now toppled the legislature’s top two unelected officers.
The report by former Vancouver Police Department investigator Doug LePard, released Tuesday night, closes another chapter in the year-long drama that has overshadowed the proceedings of the provincial government.
Gary Lenz, who served for a decade as Sergeant-at-Arms at the B.C. Legislature, abruptly announced his retirement one week ago. “I have carried out my duties for the people of British Columbia with the utmost integrity and am proud of the many initiatives that have been put in place during my time as Sergeant-at-Arms,” Mr. Lenz said in a statement last week.
The LePard report was not released publicly until after a Tuesday committee meeting of MLAs who are responsible for the legislature’s budget.
In a statement Tuesday night, Mr. Lenz said he disputes Mr. LePard’s findings “in the strongest possible terms.”
Mr. Lenz, along with then-Clerk of the House Craig James, was placed on administrative leave with pay last November after the Speaker of the House, Darryl Plecas, reported allegations of improper spending to the RCMP.
MLAs were stunned when the two unelected officers were escorted from the legislature by police, both insisting they had no idea of any accusations of wrongdoing. In total, the two were accused of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel, gifts and other inappropriate benefits over a period of 18 months.
An external review by former Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin concluded that Mr. James engaged in misconduct but Mr. Lenz did not. Mr. James retired after the release of that report in May, but Mr. Lenz remained suspended.
At the heart of the LePard report is an incident involving allegations of stolen liquor.
Mr. Plecas maintains that Mr. Lenz "told him on numerous occasions that Mr. James had committed a theft of a large amount of Legislative Assembly liquor in April 2013,” and that he wanted to use that information to compel Mr. James to resign. But when Ms. McLachlin interviewed Mr. Lenz, the Sergeant-at-Arms denied that he had accused his colleague of theft.
“I found Speaker Plecas to be a credible and reliable witness,” Mr. LePard concluded. He interviewed 14 witnesses connected with the alleged events. One witness described that Mr. Lenz had directed the loading of Mr. James’s truck with liquor.
For his part, Mr. Lenz told Mr. LePard he was aware of the liquor loaded into Mr. James’ truck, but “said that he assumed he was taking it to the [liquor distribution branch] for a refund.”
Mr. LePard dismissed the testimony of Mr. Lenz. “In my view, the evidence is clear that [Mr.] Lenz was not telling the truth when he said orally and in writing to Justice McLachlin that he assumed the liquor was being returned for refund and ‘is not aware of any theft of alcohol,’” he wrote in his 112-page report.