Former B.C. legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas (Black Press Media files)

Former B.C. legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas (Black Press Media files)

Whistleblower protections needed to prevent future scandals at Legislature: Plecas

The former speaker isn’t optimistic there won’t be further misspending

Former B.C. Speaker Darryl Plecas isn’t hopeful that the investigation into two staffers will prevent any future misuse of funds in the provincial legislature.

“There’s too many things that are fundamentally wrong,” said the former MLA for Abbotsford South.

The BC Prosecution Service announced on Tuesday (Aug. 10) that there would be no charges against former Legislature sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, one of two men at the centre of the spending scandal.

Former Legislature clerk Craig James was charged with five counts, including breach of trust and fraud. He is expected to go on trial next year.

Plecas brought the scandal to the attention of police and the public in 2018, alleging Lenz and James had engaged in inappropriate spending on personal items and foreign trips, including vacation payouts and retirement allowances.

The problem at the legislature remains a lack of access to information legislation and whistleblower protections at the Legislature, Plecas said.

He said it was no accident that this incident was the first time charges have ever been laid against that level of legislative staff in Canada.

“It’s almost impossible to get to the bottom of anything,” Plecas said.

A report by former Supreme Court justice Beverley McLachlin found James improperly claimed benefits and used Legislature property for personal reasons, but did not find misconduct on the part of Lenz.

Although Lenz will not face criminal charges, Plecas noted that the report by former Vancouver Police Department deputy chief Doug LePart in 2019 found that Lenz committed neglect of duty and didn’t tell the truth during the investigation into misconduct.

“He did not do his job in an honest manner,” Plecas said.

READ MORE: BC Prosecution Service says no further charges in Legislature spending scandal

READ MORE: Former B.C. Legislature clerk charged with fraud, breach of trust

Lenz issued a statement Tuesday saying he is pleased with the special prosecutors’ decision.

He thanked the police, prosecutors, and friends and family who stood by him.

“I have always maintained my innocence and now it is clear for everyone to see,” the statement says.

“I look forward to putting this ordeal behind me and enjoying my retirement with my loved ones.”

Plecas was elected as a Liberal MLA, but was ejected from the party’s caucus in 2017 when he accepted the post of Speaker of the Legislature under Premier John Horgan’s minority NDP government. Plecas did not run in 2020.

– with files from the Canadian Press

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