B.C. legislature officials deny wrongdoing in reply to Speaker’s allegations

B.C. legislature officials deny wrongdoing in reply to Speaker's allegations

File photo.

File photo.

The B.C. legislatures two top officials say they have responded to a report released by the Speaker alleging they engaged in flagrant overspending, questionable expenses and inappropriate payouts of cash.

Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and clerk of the house Craig James say they submitted their responses to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee and they deny any wrongdoing in media statements. They were given until Thursday to respond to the committee, which voted Jan. 21 to release the 76-page report by Speaker Darryl Plecas.

Both men say they have responded as best they could in the short time they had available and without access to records and their office staff.

Lenz and James were placed on administrative leave in November after members of the legislature learned of an ongoing RCMP investigation.

The report by Plecas alleges the two officials claimed expenses for luxurious overseas trips and personal purchases, and that they received inappropriate payouts of cash in lieu of vacation in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lenz and James said they want their responses to be made public by the committee.

“I maintain, as I have all along, that I have not done anything wrong which justifies the actions that have been taken against me, or the unfair and prejudicial manner in which those actions have been taken,” James said in his statement.

Lenz said he responded to each and every allegation contained in the report by Plecas.

“I have maintained from the day when I was publicly removed from my position and the legislative buildings under police escort that I have committed no wrongdoing,” he said.

“The negative impact this has had on me and my family is immeasurable.”

Lenz said he still hopes to resume his duties at the legislature and be “quickly exonerated.”

“Over the past 13 years of service to the people of British Columbia, I have been ethical, honest, fiscally responsible, trustworthy and non-partisan.”

None of the allegations have been proven.

Neither Plecas nor his special adviser Alan Mullen could be reached for comment on the responses or whether they would be made public by the committee.

When it voted to release the report, the committee also agreed to launch an audit of legislature financial issues, conduct a workplace review and submit that report to an auditor from outside of B.C.

On Tuesday, the government said it will implement accountability reforms at the legislature after three independent watchdogs called for sweeping changes to restore public confidence.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the government will work with the information and privacy commissioner, merit commissioner and ombudsperson to ensure new rules to monitor the legislature and its officials are enacted.

The three oversight bodies recommended making the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Interest Disclosure Act apply to the legislative assembly. As well, they want the merit commissioner to have the power under the Public Service Act to conduct independent audits of staff appointments to the administration of the legislature.

Auditor general Carol Bellringer has also started an audit and said last week she has concerns about why a rigorous system already in place did not pick up on the alleged irregularities outlined by Plecas.

Files from The Canadian Press.

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