Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz (L) and Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Craig James say the allegations in House Speak Darryl Plecas’ report are “False and untrue.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ben Nelms

Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz (L) and Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Craig James say the allegations in House Speak Darryl Plecas’ report are “False and untrue.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ben Nelms

Plecas report: Thousands spent on trips, booze, magazines and a wood splitter

Two suspended B.C. legislature officers have been accused of ‘flagrant overspending’

Royal wedding paraphernalia, a wood splitter, designer suits, personal subscriptions (including Palm Springs Life Magazine) and personal vacations are just some examples of the “flagrant overspending” that House Speaker Darryl Plecas alleges Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and and Clerk Craig James charged to the Legislative Assembly.

In a 76-page report released Monday, Plecas laid out a picture of expensive personal indulgences and professional disregard, with sums of “inappropriate payouts” and spending in the millions of dollars.

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

The speaker’s office also released 31 “exhibits” to support the report, each internal documents which include attendance lists, expense claims, travel expenses and requests for payout and life insurance.

In a joint statement released Monday, Lenz and James denied the report, calling allegations “false and untrue” and its public release without contacting them an effort to “further blacken our reputations.”

READ MORE: Ousted legislature officials say report released to further blacken their reputations

Plecas’ full report can be read here, but some highlights include:

UK Trip

Plecas said he first noticed unreasonable spending on a trip to the United Kingdom with Lenz and James, which was originally for an M15 meeting, but that most interactions were social. Alleged expenses included:

  • Staying at a “very expensive hotel” directly across from the Houses of Parliament
  • Meals at high-end restaurants
  • The purchase of a new speaker’s hat from an “historic and expensive store” followed by the purchase of a suit and cuff links, totalling $1,157.26
  • Souvenirs, including Royal wedding paraphernalia, card games, stamps, note books, three watches, “Quotable Churchill” paraphernalia, recreational books, pens, and cuff links totaling $1,360.22

ALSO READ: Speaker tried to appoint friend as interim sergeant-at-arms

Unusual Office Expenses

Plecas noted a series of alleged “unusual office expenses” that seemed to be of “personal nature”. These included:

  • James’ expenses on his personal subscriptions to magazines, including Palm Springs Life Magazine, Electric Bike Magazine and Arizona Highways Magazine. These totalled over $5,000.
  • James was reimbursed $658.45 for a waterproof camera, $78.39 for a camera case, $515.18 for memory cards and $800.78 for a tripod
  • James was reimbursed $504.44 for Bose noise-cancelling headphones
  • James was reimbursed $785.85 for “Dial A Geek” computer services, including for an “iMac with weird zoom issue.”
  • James was reimbursed over $5,000 from April 2017 to July 2018 for Apple products
  • The Clerk’s office processed over $10,000 for a “Legislative Assemblies Business Continuity Network Conference.” Plecas noted “Neither the purpose of the conference nor the reason why the British Columbia Legislative Assembly would be hosting a conference in Washington State, is evident from the documents.”

ALSO READ: Police, prosecutors tight-lipped about legislature investigation

Alcohol Expenses

  • Plecas received reports that allegedly a “large amount of alcohol” was loaded onto Lenz’s truck, apparently for former speaker Bill Barisoff. The alcohol was valued at $8,789.84, it’s unconfirmed whether Barisoff received it.
  • The Clerk’s office bought 48 bottles of wine for $1,631.27

Wood Splitter and Trailer

  • Allegedly, $13, 230.49 was expensed by James to the Legislative Assembly for a wood-splitter and work/tools trailer. None of these purchases were brought to Legislature, and instead were delivered to James’ personal residence for his and Lenz’ use.
  • The RCMP intervened and took possession of the wood-spliter, while the trailer “subsequently materialized” in the Legislature parking lot after Nov. 20, 2018, “without any indication of how it got there.”
  • James claimed he was “holding” the wood splitter because there was no room. Plecas noted that if there was no room there was question why it was purchased in the first place.

ALSO READ: Timeline of events in RCMP investigation at B.C. legislature

Salary Increases

Internal efforts by high-authority figures, including former House-Clerk George MacMinn saw continuous annual salary increases “without rationale” for James and Lenz’s roles.

  • By March 2018, Lenz’s salary was $347,090.00, more than the Chief Judge of the provincial court of B.C.

Vacation Payouts

Legislative Assembly staff are supposed to use a minimum of 15 days of vacation time per year. If there are unused vacation days, they can be rolled over or paid out, though “additional days are not to be paid out in lieu unless there are extraordinary circumstances.”

  • Allegedly, both James and Lenz regularly took payment in lieu, despite also taking time off, though they did “not record these as official vacation days.”
  • James was “rarely to be seen at work on Fridays”
  • Both have claimed between 28 and 54 days of vacation payout per year, totalling tens of thousands of dollars

ALSO READ: Suspended B.C. legislature officers protest their treatment

Retirement Allowance

In 1984 a benefits program was developed for three senior clerks since they did not fall in terms of the Public Service Act Retirement Allowance. The program ended in 1987, however James wrote a memorandum in 2012 that argued that outstanding accrued liabilities had to be paid out, since he was hired in 1987 before it ended.

  • James received a payment of $257, 988.38
  • Three other senior staff members received a combined total of $401,525.42 for this allowance

On Nov. 20, 2019 James and Lenz were escorted out of the B.C. Legislature by police and put on administrative leave while the RCMP continue an investigation.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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