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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greater Victoria resident sick with COVID-19 calls it a ‘horrible disease’

Tim Boat says he has ‘extreme coughing fits every hour’ to clear his lungs

Victoria to reassess 2020 budget in light of COVID-19; more hotel rooms found for the homeless

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps provided an update on municipal measures on March 31

Tents, sleeping bags donated to Our Place from local Victoria store

Robinson’s Outdoor Store received funds from PwC Canada to make the donation

Victoria police seek public help finding high-risk missing woman last seen on ferry

Mariah Konchak has shoulder-length dark hair, scars above her right eye and may be missing a tooth

Victoria police arrest man in stolen Jubilee Hospital worker’s car

Suspect found in car with drugs, stolen property and weapons

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes B.C. Interior

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout the Okanagan

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

B.C.’s first community COVID-19 death was dentist ‘dedicated’ to health: lawyer

Vincent was 64 when he died on March 22 after attending the Pacific Dental Conference

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

Quarantined B.C. mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Surrey’s Christine Williams shares family’s challenges, strengths

Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Liberals delay release of 75% wage subsidy details, costs: Morneau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Most Read