British Columbia’s Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz and Legislature Clerk Craig James have both been suspended with pay pending a criminal investigation into allegations pertaining to their administrative duties.

House Leader Mike Farnworth told the legislature that James and Lenz were being put on leave with immediate effect. He read the motion during question period and it passed unanimously in the house.

“By leave, I move that Mr. Craig James, clerk of the legislative assembly, and Mr. Gary Lenz, sergeant-at-arms, are placed on administrative leave with pay and benefits, effective immediately,” B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced.

Victoria police said they were made aware of the initial allegations.

“Since then, the RCMP has become the primary investigative agency for this matter and we remain in contact with them in case we are able to assist. Independent of the investigation itself, at the request of the Speaker of the BC Legislature, VicPD officers attended the legislature today to stand by during the suspension and removal of the clerk and sergeant-at-arms,” VicPD said in a statement.

Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, media relations officer for the BC RCMP, said RCMP is currently investigating.

“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 specifics. A thorough investigation is underway and will take the time necessary. Given the nature and the roles of the individuals involved, the RCMP sought the appoint of a special¬†prosecutor,” Shoihet wrote in a statement.

The BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) also announced Tuesday that David Butcher and Brock Martland had been appointed as special prosecutors “to provide legal assistance and advice to the RCMP in relation to an investigation being conducted into the activities of senior staff at the British Columbia Legislature.”

Assistant Deputy Attorney General (ADAG) for the BCPS Peter Juk received the request for a special prosecutor from RCMP on Sept. 28.

“The ADAG concluded, based on the request and the information available about the alleged circumstances of the case that the appointment of special prosecutors is in the public interest,” the BCPS said in a statement.

“Given the potential size and scope of the investigation, the ADAG determined that two special prosecutors would be appointed. The ADAG will consider appointing a special prosecutor
where some aspect of an investigation, or prosecution file, carries a significant potential for real or perceived improper influence in prosecutorial decision making. A special prosecutor
works independent from government, the Ministry of Attorney General and the BCPS.

Butcher and Marland are senior counsel with the private bar in Vancouver and were appointed on Oct. 1.

Should the RCMP submit a report to Crown Counsel for charge assessment and possible prosecution to the special prosecutors, the BCPS anticipates a media statement will be issued announcing the results of the review.

“As the matter is currently subject to an ongoing investigation, neither the BCPS nor the special prosecutors will comment further or release any additional information at this time,” BCPS said in a statement.

On Tuesday afternoon, Alan Mullen, a special advisor to the speaker of the house Darryl Plecas, confirmed there was an ongoing and active RCMP criminal investigation and said the suspensions are not political in nature.

“It is an ongoing and active criminal investigation,” he told reporters.

“It would be inappropriate at this time to say any more because we do not want to jeopardize any investigation the RCMP have ongoing. I’m not prepared to get into details.”

No further details about the investigation and suspensions have been released at this time. Farnworth did not explain the reasons for the investigation in a brief statement to reporters outside of the legislature.

Lenz and James were escorted from the building Tuesday morning and barred from the legislature until the investigation is complete. They cannot access Legislative Assembly network equipment or services.

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

James told reporters as he was walking out that he didn’t know why he was placed on leave.

“I have no idea but I’m sure I’ll find out in due course,” James said.

Premier John Horgan spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon and said he was told about the investigation yesterday. He also said he holds Lenz and James in high regard and can’t confirm they will return after the investigation is over.

As sergeant-at-arms, Lenz is responsible for the security of the parliament buildings and legislative grounds. He is also responsible for facility maintenance services. Lenz is a former Sidney/North Saanich RCMP officer and was appointed sergeant-at-arms in 2009.

As clerk, James is responsible for the overall direction and administration of the Legislative Assembly. 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. James has been the clerk since 2011.

According to B.C. Public Accounts, James was paid a salary of $347,090 in 2018 while Lenz made $218,167.

With files from the CBC and The Canadian Press

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