B.C. Legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas. (Hansard TV)

B.C. legislature moving suspended staff controversy to outside review

Whale watching, Seattle Mariners trips billed as emergency preparedness, Speaker Darryl Plecas says

B.C. Legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas has agreed to an outside review of the events that led to the suspension of senior managers, while making new allegations about tourist-style trips passed off as emergency preparedness.

An all-party MLA committee voted Thursday to arrange for B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer to examine the internal workings of the $80 million legislative assembly budget. An “eminent jurist” is also to be appointed to review the conflicting claims over travel and other expense account irregularities alleged by Plecas.

The committee also agreed to release the responses of James and Lenz to Plecas’s report in January, and a follow-up report in which Plecas describes more travel and expenses he views as having dubious value to the public.

Those trips included one to Washington state in August 2017, for a group described as devoted to emergency preparedness. Events included a visit to Safeco Field in Seattle, with 13 tickets to a Seattle Mariners-Baltimore Orioles game, and three “working dinners” in Washington, for which taxpayers were billed more than $4,500 in expenses.

Another outing of the group in Victoria was described by James as a “tsunami watch” tour of Haro and Juan de Fuca Straits. “The actual activity was in fact a whale watching expedition,” Plecas writes in his follow-up report.

A battle of conflicting statements has broken out since Plecas moved to suspend Clerk of the House Craig James and Sergeant at Arms Gary Lenz in November, then released a report in January detailing his concerns about overspending and inappropriate treatment of legislature staff.

James and Lenz have issued their own rebuttals, dealing with overseas travel, the purchase of custom-made suits in London, a proposed $300,000 retirement allowance for James and other issues questioned by Plecas.

RELATED:

Plecas says he’ll retire as MLA once legislature reforms in place

Speaker worried about recall bid in Abbotsford, Clerk says

In his follow-up report, Plecas goes through James and Lenz’s explanations for the questionable spending, referring to some of them as intentionally misleading. Plecas also refers to James driving a pickup carrying a desk and alcoholic beverages to the Penticton home of former speaker Bill Barisoff after Barisoff retired as an MLA in 2013.

Plecas questioned the $370 cheque from Barisoff labelled “wine purchase,” saying two trips delivered more than wine.

“Moreover, Mr. James has provided no reasonable explanation as to why it would have been appropriate for the most senior officer of the legislature to drive up to Penticton to sell wine and deliver a desk and chair to the former speaker, stay overnight at the Penticton Lakeside Inn, and drive back the next day, billing all of the expenses to the taxpayers along with his very high salary for two days of work,” Plecas wrote.

James and Lenz gave detailed responses to the MLA committee in early February, contradicting many of the assertions.

“The [Plecas] report goes out of its way to smear my character,” James wrote in his response. “It refers to historical and long-since resolved issues. It contains anonymous and unparticularized assertions. It contains opinions and innuendo which are neither accurate nor fair. It attributes statements to me which I never made, and conduct in which I never engaged.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Traffic lights coming to busy intersection near Royal Bay Secondary School

Royal Bay has agreed to hasten the traffic light installation in anticipation of school start-up

RCMP the best option for West Shore policing, mayors say

West Shore municipalities funding more officers and civilians at local detachment

Souper Bowls cook up support for Victoria youth

Youth Empowerment Society fundraising event set for April 4 at Crystal Gardens

Victoria Royals look ahead to Game 3 in playoff series

Best of seven series tied 1-1 after weekend play

BC Ferries warns of short Tsawwassen inconvenience, sailing times not affected

Line painting scheduled overnight between Tuesday, March 26 and Wednesday, March 27

Edmonton judge rules Omar Khadr’s sentence has expired

Eight-year sentence imposed in 2010 would have ended last October had Khadr remained in custody

Kamloops chamber of commerce director let go after controversial Facebook posts

Facebook account had derogatory comments about Muslims, Justin Trudeau

B.C. RCMP officer cleared after Taser incident seriously injures woman

Woman with knives refused to comply with orders therefore officer used appropriate level of force

‘Bikinishe’ swimwear retailer prompts Better Business Bureau warning

Watchdog has gotten dozens of complaints about company, which has been using fake Vancouver address

Woman wants Tofino to get a nude beach

“They may enjoy a surf and then walk around naked and just be free.”

Ice climbers scale Canada’s tallest waterfall on Vancouver Island

Ice climbers Chris Jensen, Will Gadd and Peter Hoang made history

Sparks fly as SUV speeds wrong way down Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Fundraising campaign launched for man caught in SilverStar avalanche

In only two days, the GoFundMe surpassed its $15,000 goal

B.C. doctor fined $5,000 for accessing records of woman pregnant with his child

Doctor admits to accessing records of the woman carrying his child

Most Read