WATCH: The fate of the legislature’s top two officials may soon be in the hands of a retired judge. And MLAs are hoping that a review can be completed quickly to determine whether Craig James and Gary Lenz will continue to be paid while on suspension. Mary Griffin reports.
On Thursday, MLAs from all three parties agree to have a retired judge look into the alleged wrongdoings by the legislature’s top two officials in a vote during the Legislative Assembly Management Committee.
In a rare move, the three house leaders agreed to fast-track the next step in the legislature controversy. Government House Leader Mike Farnworth said it was the only choice.
“All three of us, all three parties around the table take this issue very seriously. We take the institution very seriously. And we work together to come up with a way forward, along with the Speaker,” Farnworth said.
The latest report from Speaker Darryl Plecas details allegations of tax-payer funded holidays. Under the guise of the “Legislative Assemblies Business Continuity Network” conference held in Victoria in August 2017, it is alleged clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz organized “Tsunami Watch: Guided Tours of Haro Strait” but instead took a group of eight whale watching and billed $1,024 for the afternoon.
Chief of Staff for the Speaker, Alan Mullen said it’s possible the allegations of misspending total millions of dollars.
“This is only 18 months. If we went back further, oh boy. And I stand by that whole-heartedly,” Mullen said.
During the same conference in 2017, instead of attending the session, “Safe Passages: Large-Scale Evacuations”, Plecas’s latest report states British Columbian taxpayers paid more than $1,000 for 13 tickets for a game between the Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles.
And the Speaker’s report contains a photo of the infamous wood splitter and trailer,in their own parking pad outside the clerk’s house.
Now MLAs will look to a retired judge for a timely review of all the reports, look into any more potential wrongdoings, and if James and Lenz should continue to be paid while suspended. The Speaker and Mullen are determined, though, to keep going.
“We’re here. We’ve got a job to do. British Columbians are screaming loud and clear, please don’t stop. Please keep going. And, oh my goodness, are we going to keep going? That’s a big yes,” Mullen said.