B.C. legislature Sergeant at Arms Gary Lenz and Clerk of the House Craig James. (Black Press files)

B.C. legislature clerk in spending scandal retires after wrongdoing found

Clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz were suspended last November

British Columbia’s top legislative official has retired after a report by a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada found he improperly claimed benefits and used legislature property for personal reasons.

New Democrat House Leader Mike Farnworth told the legislature that Clerk Craig James has retired with a “non-financial” settlement.

Both James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz were suspended last November amid allegations of receiving improper benefits and expensing spending on personal items.

In her report presented to the legislature, Beverley McLachlin found four of five administrative allegations against James were substantiated, while she said Lenz did not engage in misconduct.

Farnworth says Lenz will remain on paid leave.

Lenz and James had denied any wrongdoing, saying a report by the legislature Speaker harmed their reputation, adding that their expenses were approved.

James said in a statement that he has been in public service for more than four decades and has fond memories of his time at the legislature, but he has now “had enough.”

“I have been publicly ridiculed and vilified. My family has been deeply hurt and continues to suffer humiliation. In an effort to put an end to that, I have decided to retire, and reach a settlement with the Legislative Assembly,” he said.

He added that when the allegations were disclosed to him, he provided detailed written submissions and supporting documents to the legislative assembly, but many of them are not referred to or addressed in McLachlin’s report.

“I believe the public has a right to see those submissions and documents, so they can know and understand the whole picture and judge the truth of these matters for themselves,” he said.

James was set to hold a news conference later Thursday.

READ MORE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

B.C.’s Speaker, Darryl Plecas, said in a 76-page report released in January that based on what he had seen and heard at the legislature since being named Speaker in September 2017, that he felt obligated to contact the RCMP.

The Speaker alleged in his report that Lenz and James engaged in inappropriate spending on personal items and foreign trips. The report also alleged inappropriate vacation pay outs and retirement allowances.

Plecas told reporters Thursday that McLachlin’s report is a positive first step.

“We still have some way to go. We need better accountability systems,” he said.

Farnworth told the legislature that McLachlin noted several policy areas that the legislature needs to consider. He said the house leaders accepted all of her recommendations and he also tabled a status report detailing “considerable efforts” already undertaken by staff to address these issues.

Members of the legislature voted unanimously to suspend Lenz and James last November after learning of the ongoing RCMP investigation and the appointment of two special prosecutors.

Farnworth told the legislature in March that McLachlin would conduct a “confidential, impartial and independent investigation,” and her report will be made public.

McLachlin was tasked by the all-party legislative committee that oversees management of the legislature to review the Plecas report, the written responses, the legal submissions by Lenz and James and the subsequent Speaker’s report on the written responses.

McLachlin was also appointed to examine if the clerk and sergeant-at-arms improperly and knowingly received improper pay outs of vacation pay, improperly claimed and received retirement allowances, and improperly made purchases of a personal nature and filed expense claims to the legislature.

The Canadian Press

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