B.C. legislature Speaker defends handling of two key officials’ suspensions

B.C. legislature Speaker defends handling of two key officials' suspensions

House Speaker Darryl Plecas briefly speaks to reporters outside his office at the B.C. legislature on Nov. 22, 2018.

House Speaker Darryl Plecas briefly speaks to reporters outside his office at the B.C. legislature on Nov. 22, 2018.

The Speaker of the B.C. legislature says it is up to the assembly to decide whether it wants to rescind a motion that placed its two top officials on administrative leave.

In a letter to the three party house leaders released today by Speaker Darryl Plecas, he says the motion passed unanimously by the legislature last Tuesday provides for a periodic review of the decision.

Plecas says all three party leaders supported the position that “it would not be appropriate for these permanent officers to continue to be at the assembly in the face of an active criminal investigation regarding their actions related to the assembly.”

Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and clerk of the house Craig James have denied any wrongdoing in a letter released Friday by their lawyer, who has asked the legislature to rescind the motion placing them on leave.

The RCMP has said it is investigating staff at the legislature, but it has not said who is the subject of its probe and it has not described the investigation as criminal in nature.

The Liberals have asked for an emergency meeting to question Plecas about how and why he hired a special adviser to investigate his concerns about Lenz and James.

On Saturday, Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said his caucus still has a lot of questions about the Speaker’s decision to hire his friend Alan Mullen in January to look into the administrative duties of Lenz and James.

The Speaker’s office forwarded information to the RCMP in August and the Mounties are investigating with the help of two special prosecutors, who have declined comment on the case.

Wilkinson said he’s asking questions now in part because it came as a surprise to him when Mullen revealed Wednesday that he had led the investigation before handing it off to the RCMP. Before Wednesday, the Liberals thought Mullen was a clerical worker and driver for the Speaker, he said.

But Plecas says in his letter that the Liberals did not raise any objections at a meeting before the motion was presented to the house.

“Official Opposition house leader Mary Polak specifically stated that she did not want or need any further information about the allegations beyond knowing that there was an active RCMP investigation,” he wrote.

Plecas says the work done by Lenz and James is “central to the operations and deliberations of the legislative assembly.”

“They must have the unqualified trust and confidence of the house. They are entitled to the presumption of innocence in any criminal process, but the reality of an active criminal investigation concerning their activities as permanent officers of the house cannot be ignored by the house.”

The Speaker says his office has canvassed members about an emergency management meeting for their availability and has since concluded a scheduled meeting of the committee should go ahead on Dec. 6. The committee, chaired by the Speaker and made up of the three house leaders and other top legislature members, is responsible for the financial accounting of the legislature.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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