Lawyer says he didn’t advise B.C. Speaker on clerk’s retirement benefit

Lawyer says he didn't advise B.C. Speaker on clerk's retirement benefit
Craig James, former clerk of the British Columbia legislature, leaves B.C. Supreme Court during a break from his trial in Vancouver, on Wednesday, January 26, 2022. James has pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of breach of trust by a public officer.

VANCOUVER — A lawyer who advised British Columbia’s former Speaker about a retirement allowance that is the subject of a criminal charge says the name of then-clerk Craig James never came up in those conversations.

Donald Farquhar told a B.C. Supreme Court trial for James that it was his legal opinion that all so-called table officers, who support the work of the clerk in the legislature, were eligible in 2011 for the retirement allowance, which has since been eliminated.

He says he never advised then-Speaker Bill Barisoff specifically about James’s eligibility.

However, Farquhar says James had already asked him about being eligible for the benefit before he spoke to Barisoff.

James has pleaded not guilty to breach of trust and fraud relating to his claim of the $258,000 benefit and other expense claims during his time as clerk.

Lawyers for James have argued that he claimed the benefit after he and Barisoff sought legal advice from Farquhar.

Farquhar says the bulk of his advice to Barisoff and James related to the eligibility of another person who was threatening a lawsuit if he didn’t receive the allowance.

Kate Ryan-Lloyd, the current clerk of the legislature, has previously told the trial that she also received the retirement benefit but felt “uncomfortable” about the money and returned it.

“I can tell you that Craig James’s and Kate’s names never once surfaced in my dealings with the Speaker,” Farquhar said in court Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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