B.C. Legislature Clerk Craig James retires as spending report finds he committed misconduct

Clerk Craig James has retired effective immediately after the release of an investigative report into a spending scandal at the B.C. Legislature.

Beverley McLachlin, retired chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, released her report on the scandal in the legislature Thursday morning.

McLachlin found multiple cases of misconduct committed by James, including the purchase of expensive suits and luggage for his personal use during trips to the U.K.; the removal of a large amount of alcohol from the legislature to deliver to the home of former speaker Bill Barisoff and his personal use of a wood splitter purchased for the legislature.

James was defiant in a written statement explaining his decision to retire.

“I have 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 wrote.

He said the public should have access to the detailed written submissions and documents he provided to McLachlin, many of which are not addressed in her report, “so they can know and understand the whole picture and judge the truth of these matters for themselves.”

Other examples of misconduct identified by McLachlin include James’s claims for reimbursement of the cost of his life insurance premiums, and payouts from a retirement benefit program.

House Leaders Mary Polak, Mike Farnworth and Sonia Furstenau react to the release of an investigative report into a spending scandal at the B.C. legislature. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

NDP House Leader Mike Farnworth said the government has reached a non-financial settlement with James, but he is still entitled to receive his public service pension.

Farnworth described the report as “worth every penny,” and said it will help restore public confidence in government

“These recent events have caused significant questions in the minds of the public, but also for the people who work in this house,” Farnworth told reporters.

Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, who was suspended along with James last fall, will remain on administrative leave. McLachlin’s report found that his behaviour did not constitute misconduct, but a police investigation and an audit by the auditor-general are still underway.

Lenz has scheduled a news conference for Thursday afternoon.

Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin was appointed special investigator to conduct a ‘confidential fact-finding review.’ (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The investigation

McLachlin turned in her findings May 2, two months after MLAs asked her to conduct a “fair, impartial and independent investigation” of allegations against James and Lenz.

McLachlin was appointed March 7 as special investigator in a “confidential fact-finding review” to determine whether either of the senior officials engaged in misconduct.

Under the terms of reference, the retired judge was free to review any legislature documents and interview anyone she deemed appropriate, barring solicitor-client privilege.

Besides an outline of findings of fact, she was tasked with compiling analysis and providing a conclusion that house leaders said they would take into “careful consideration.”

House leaders have had nearly two weeks to review the independent report investigating allegations of misspending by two top officials at the B.C. Legislature. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

The accusations against the pair stem from multiple reports compiled by Speaker Darryl Plecas, which detail claims of flagrant overspending and inappropriate expenses.

Plecas and his chief of staff, Alan Mullen, conducted their own confidential investigation for several months before presenting evidence to RCMP last summer.

After McLachlin’s report was released, Plecas said he was happy with the conclusions, but there’s still work to be done.

“I think we still have issues outstanding, and hopefully we’ll get to a place where that can happen,” he told reporters Thursday.

Mounties have been conducting an ongoing investigation since September with the assistance of two special prosecutors. No charges have been laid.

Both Lenz and James have denied wrongdoing since they were marched out of the legislature under police escort in November 2018. They have been on paid administrative leave ever since.

B.C.’s auditor general is also conducting a forensic audit of the legislature. It coincides with a separate workplace review that’s currently underway.

Farnworth told reporters that an all-party committee will be formed to find a replacement for James.

Read more at CBC.ca