B.C. legislature Clerk Craig James and Sergeant at Arms Gary Lenz were abruptly escorted out of the building Tuesday morning, placed on administrative leave due to a police investigation.
Government House leader Mike Farnworth had little to say about the move after he announced it during debate in the legislature at about 11 a.m.
Alan Mullen, a political advisor to Speaker Darryl Plecas, said there is an ongoing RCMP criminal investigation that James and Lenz were informed about while the motion was being presented in the legislature. Mullen said both are placed on administrative leave with pay, effective immediately.
“I can confirm that there has been a special prosecutor assigned,” Mullen said. “I can confirm that there is an active and ongoing criminal investigation by the RCMP. It would be inappropriate to say anything more, because we don’t want to jeopardize any investigation that the RCMP have ongoing.”
James spoke briefly to reporters after turning in his keys and collecting his personal effects. He said the Speaker, Darryl Plecas, asked him and Lenz to meet him in his office after question period.
“[Plecas] looked quite distressed, and wasn’t able to convey anything to me,” James said. “I asked him if it had to do with any members (MLAs), any staff, was there a threat on this place. He said none of the above, and quite obviously there’s another reason.”
The B.C. Prosecution Service announced Tuesday that lawyers David Butcher and Brock Martland were appointed Oct. 1 as special prosecutors in the case, with two required due to the “potential size and scope of the investigation.” RCMP notified the service Sept. 28 that the investigation was underway.
James is the chief administrator of the legislature, which has an operating budget of about $70 million. He began his B.C. career in 1987 as B.C.’s chief electoral officer and has been clerk since 2011.
Lenz, a former senior RCMP officer, is in charge of legislature security.
Premier John Horgan said he was notified of the situation Monday, but knows nothing more than has been made public. MLAs voted unanimously to support a motion to suspend James and Lenz. The motion specifies that they are not allowed to have access to computer networks or systems or to be in any legislature building, “subject to periodic review by the Legislative Assembly.”