Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

House Speaker Darryl Plecas leaves his office as journalists try to ask him questions at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Nov. 22, 2018.CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

It’s been a tumultuous week at the B.C. Legislature, with the spectacle of high-ranking officials being marched off the premises under police escort amid a cloud of a criminal investigation.

The unprecedented events feature a cast of characters who are rarely in the public eye.

The two officers who have been suspended from their duties collectively held the reins for the operation of the legislature – a multimillion-dollar enterprise that is managed with surprisingly little public scrutiny.

Speaker of the House Darryl Plecas, whose non-partisan role dictates that he rarely faces questions, was questioned about his role in the affair.

And the Speaker’s special adviser, a friend of Mr. Plecas who had been brought in to secretly investigate concerns about the officers of the legislature, became such a lightening rod that a second special adviser was appointed to keep the first one away from the microphones.

Here’s a look at the main players in this drama:

Darryl Plecas: Speaker

Darryl Plecas initially said he had no interest in being Speaker of the B.C. Legislature, saying that taking the assignment would be “dishonourable” because it would amount to crossing the floor.

It was important for the New Democrats to coax a Liberal into the Speaker’s chair, because putting up one of their own − standard for a government − would have meant the Liberals would have the same number of votes in the legislature as the fragile combination of the NDP and the Greens.

Last September, the university criminologist first elected to the legislature in 2013 changed his mind, a decision that meant the NDP was less likely to be defeated in the legislature.

Mr. Plecas, now the Abbotsford-South member of the legislature, is at the centre of one of the most unruly situations in British Columbia politics in quite some time.

He enabled an investigation of two senior officers of the House – Clerk of the Legislature Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz – that led to a continuing probe by the RCMP and the appointment of a pair of special prosecutors.

Both Mr. James and Mr. Lenz have been placed on administrative leave over the allegations, which have yet to be publicly explained.

Mr. Plecas spent more than 30 years as a criminologist and faculty member at the University of the Fraser Valley.

He took a detour into politics in 2013 when he was recruited to run in Abbotsford South by the BC Liberals.

Despite his professional experience, Mr. Plecas was never appointed to a high-profile cabinet post under then-premier Christy Clark, serving instead in parliamentary secretary roles. He was pointed in his criticism of Ms. Clark’s leadership skills after the Liberals were ousted in a confidence vote.

Amid the shift to the first NDP government in 17 years, Mr. Plecas expressed no interest in the Speaker’s job, saying that it would be inappropriate for a Liberal to prop up the NDP-Green alliance by becoming Speaker.

In making the shift to take the job, which comes with a 50-per-cent wage hike above his backbench MLA’s salary, Mr. Plecas burned bridges with the Liberals. The party revoked his membership.

Last September, Premier John Horgan called Mr. Plecas’s decision to take the post “an honourable thing,” because he said it brought stability to the legislative session.

Alan Mullen: special adviser to the Speaker

Alan Mullen took on the job as a key adviser to one of the most prominent figures in B.C. politics in January, but was little known to most British Columbians before recent tumultuous events at the legislature.

Mr. Mullen was responsible for asking Victoria police to escort the two senior officers of the legislature out of the building. Since then, he has been taking questions from the media on behalf of Mr. Plecas.

Mr. Mullen has said he was hired, in part, to investigate matters that prompted the Speaker’s office to make a complaint to the Victoria police and RCMP. He said he has been involved in “numerous investigations” as a manager with the Correctional Service of Canada.

Mr. Mullen, who said he is paid $75,000 a year, advises the Speaker on “all things political” and also works on behalf of constituents in Mr. Plecas’s riding.

When House leaders were summoned to the Speaker’s office to be advised by Mr. Plecas that the two senior officers should be removed by a vote in the House, Mr. Plecas suggested that Mr. Mullen should replace the sergeant-at-arms. The three House leaders in the legislature flatly rejected the idea.

During a news conference at the legislature, Mr. Mullen described himself as “non-partisan,” though he added that he has worked on various campaigns for various parties.

On Thursday, reporters were told that their questions should be directed to a second special adviser, former Liberal attorney-general and former judge Wally Oppal.

Mr. Mullen did not respond to a call from The Globe and Mail seeking an interview. Nor did he respond to e-mail questions about his professional past.

In an interview with the Abbotsford News in the spring, Mr. Mullen said he once worked as an administrator at the maximum-security Kent Institution in Agassiz, working as a correctional manager with duties associated with prosecuting prison court cases, said the News.

In an e-mail, Julia Scott, a communications adviser with Correctional Service Canada, said Mr. Mullen worked at Kent from December, 2008, until April, 2018, but said she could provide no further information.

While at Kent, Mr. Mullen met Mr. Plecas, who was working as a judge at Kent, said the Abbotsford News.

Because Mr. Plecas became an Independent MLA to act as Speaker, he required Mr. Mullen to advocate for policies − a responsibility for members of the legislative assembly that Mr. Plecas was unable to do.

Craig James: Suspended as Clerk of the House

Craig James began his parliamentary career in Saskatchewan in 1978, and was first appointed to the position of clerk assistant in the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly in 1984. Three years later, he was appointed clerk assistant and clerk of committees of the Legislative Assembly of B.C.

From June, 2010, to September, 2011, Mr. James served as acting chief electoral officer for Elections BC, where he oversaw the HST initiative.

In September, 2011, Mr. James became Clerk of the B.C. Legislative Assembly, replacing George MacMinn.

At the opening of the Commonwealth Youth Parliament in November, 2016, Mr. James told the youth delegates that in 1965, he too had participated in Saskatchewan Youth Parliament, then called the Saskatchewan Older Boys' Parliament.

“Sitting in the House, as you are now, I never thought, never dreamt in a million years, that I would end up working in [the legislature],” he said. “So I, perhaps, might become known as the accidental clerk. It is a job and a position that I really enjoy, and I commend a life in Parliament to all of you when you return.”

The clerk of the house has been described as CEO of the legislature. Mr. James’s responsibilities include providing non-partisan procedural advice to the Speaker and all members of the House, and assisting with protocol arrangements for legislative functions and ceremonies and parliamentary visits.

He also serves as clerk to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, arranging meetings and preparing and distributing agendas, supporting materials and minutes.

Deputy Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd will serve as acting clerk until further notice.

Open this photo in gallery:

Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz before the Throne Speech at B.C. Legislature, on Sept. 8, 2017.CHAD HIPOLITO

Gary Lenz: Sergeant-at-Arms

Gary Lenz arrived at the B.C. Legislature in 2009. As sergeant-at-arms, he was responsible for protective services in the legislature and security for all MLAs’ constituency offices. This included overseeing the implementation of new security measures, such as screening for weapons and explosives, and bringing in a special response team for hazardous materials situations.

In this role, Mr. Lenz routinely liaised with legislatures across the country to co-ordinate security efforts. After the 2014 shootings at Parliament Hill, in which a Canadian soldier on ceremonial sentry duty was killed, Mr. Lenz conducted a security review and introduced a security package that included armed guards and screening machines at the B.C. Legislature.

He also had ceremonial duties, carrying the mace into and out of the chamber during daily sittings and the black rod when accompanying the Lieutenant-Governor.

Before his appointment in 2009, Mr. Lenz worked as a Mountie on Vancouver Island for about a decade, with most of that time as Sidney North Saanich RCMP detachment commander.

During this time, he chaired a committee aimed at keeping elderly drivers safe. This included producing and distributing educational CDs intended to help maturing drivers assess their own abilities behind the wheel and explore other transportation options.

“The whole idea of the CDs is to make people think,” Mr. Lenz told the Victoria Times Colonist in September, 2004. “Maybe you just need to adjust your driving habits to what you can do well and avoid things you can’t. Maybe you need to make the decision to give up your licence, but you can make that choice in the privacy of your own home.”

Randall Ennis will serve as acting sergeant-at-arms until further notice.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe