The house leaders of B.C.’s three parties have extended the deadline for Clerk of the House Craig James and Sergeant at Arms Gary Lenz to respond formally to B.C. Legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas’s revelations about their expense account spending and travel spree.
The men have been given until Feb. 7 to report to the legislature’s management committee, which will recommend to MLAs whether James and Lenz should continue on paid leave, have their pay suspended pending a police investigation, or be terminated based on what Premier John Horgan and the party leaders have described as “shocking” apparent abuses.
Only speakers have access to receipt filings for travel and work-related expenses, and Plecas gathered evidence while travelling twice to London and once to China with the top officers since taking the position in the fall of 2017.
His disclosures were handed over to the RCMP and two special prosecutors have been appointed to look into the more serious allegations, involving stolen liquor and termination of legislature staff members who questioned the lavish spending.
B.C. Auditor General Carole Bellringer has also announced her intention to examine the $70 million budget of legislature operations, following up on former auditor John Doyle’s work in 2012 that forced MLAs to produce receipts for their housing and travel, and have them posted regularly on a website.
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has called for the same system for legislature officers, and a cap on salaries that would limit the clerk to the same salary as a provincial court judge, currently $266,000 per year.
As clerk, James was paid $347,000 last year, and billed more than $50,000 for travel. He called for the sergeant at arms salary to be capped at two thirds that of the clerk, and a mandatory retirement age of 75 for both positions, matching the policy of the Senate of Canada.
The B.C. Liberals’ 20-point ethics plan was laid out in a letter from Wilkinson and B.C. Liberal house leader Mary Polak, sent to Plecas Thursday. It recommends no foreign travel without management committee approval, and mandatory public committee meetings four times per year.
The disclosure of three stuffed liquor cabinets in the Speaker’s office and staff descriptions of a truckoad of liquor being removed by James led to a recommendation that there be “no purchases of alcohol, other than B.C. products to be used at public ceremonial events.”
20191229 Wilkinson Ethics L… by on Scribd