Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS                                House Speaker Darryl Plecas answers questions from the opposition during a Legislative Assembly Management Committee meeting in the Douglas Fir room at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday.

Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS House Speaker Darryl Plecas answers questions from the opposition during a Legislative Assembly Management Committee meeting in the Douglas Fir room at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday.

B.C. legislature Speaker threatens to resign; defends handling of suspensions

VICTORIA — The Speaker of British Columbia’s legislature has promised to resign if a financial audit he is recommending doesn’t prompt public outrage and back his handling of a controversy that has engulfed the province’s politics.

Darryl Plecas made the promise during a meeting Thursday of an all-party financial management committee that is grappling with the fallout from a police investigation that saw the legislature’s top two officials placed on administrative leave.

Plecas told members of the committee he can’t discuss the reasons behind the investigation but said he would welcome an audit of the legislature’s books, saying he would resign along with his special adviser, Alan Mullen, if an audit didn’t justify his actions.

“I am completely confident, completely confident, that those audits will show that we have a lot of work to do here,” he told the meeting. “And if the outcome of those audits did not outrage the public, did not outrage taxpayers, did not make them throw up, I will resign as Speaker, and Mr. Mullen will resign as well.”

Plecas hired Mullen, a former federal prison administrator and personal friend, last January. He also recently hired Wally Oppal, a retired judge and former B.C. attorney general, to offer legal advice.

“This has gone on far enough, I’ve been reduced to a cartoon character,” said Plecas. “The press has focused on nothing but this issue since this first happened.”

Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and house clerk Craig James were escorted from the building on Nov. 20 after the members of the legislature voted unanimously to place them on administrative leave because of an ongoing police investigation.

Lenz and James have denied any wrongdoing and their lawyer has demanded they be allowed to return to their jobs while the investigation continues. Their lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday’s committee meeting.

The B.C. Liberals have questioned Plecas’s handling of the suspensions, but Premier John Horgan has expressed his confidence in him. The Liberals also recently failed in an attempt to bring forward and rescind the motion that placed Lenz and James on administrative leave.

Liberal house leader Mary Polak said Thursday’s meeting was one of the strangest she had ever been involved in.

“It was quite unbelievable what he was saying,” Polak said afterwards, adding the committee would have to approve any audit.

The committee is tentatively scheduled to meet again in January.

Plecas told the meeting that soon after he was appointed last year, he was made aware of issues that required him to do his due diligence on behalf of taxpayers.

“I can tell every single taxpayer out there, take it to the bank: I will be doing due diligence,” he added.

Acting clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd and auditor general Carol Bellringer, who also attended the meeting, said they will not sign off on the legislature’s books until the current issues are resolved. The legislature’s budget is more than $75 million.

Two special prosecutors were appointed to oversee the police investigation on Oct. 1.

Mullen, Plecas, and Oppal have described the investigation as a “criminal” matter.

The RCMP has said it is investigating staff at the legislature, but it has not said who is the subject of the probe or described the investigation as criminal in nature. The special prosecutors have declined comment.

Lenz and James told a news conference on Nov. 26 that they were humiliated after being placed on administrative leave and they want their jobs and their reputations back. Both men said at the time they do not known what it is they are alleged to have done and offered to co-operate with the RCMP investigation.

James outlined steps he took after becoming clerk in 2011 to improve the administration of the legislature, including assuring the auditor general that problems identified in a report would be fixed.

“I have established processes in the legislative assembly that are essentially bulletproof,” he said, adding they have also led to “clean audits” since then.

British Columbia

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A man wearing shorts uses trekking poles as he walks through the snow at Burnaby Mountain Park in Burnaby, B.C., on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. Canadians are “Angry Birds” when it comes to climate action, indicates a survey the United Nations calls the largest ever taken on the issue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
UN survey uses Angry Birds to reveal Canadian, global opinions on climate policies

Canada seventh out of 50 countries when it comes to concern about the environment

James Scott, 19, pauses while picking through the remains of his home, which was destroyed by a tornado, on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Fultondale, Ala. Scott, who survived with his mother and sister, had never lived anywhere else and isn’t sure where he will wind up after the storm. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
Killer winter tornado stuns storm-savvy Alabama town

30 injured, entire families trapped in shattered homes

A photo illustration made December 14, 2012 in Montreal shows a computer in chains. Security experts warn about “ransomware,” where computers or mobile phones are locked down by cyber thieves. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Cyber cops in 9 nations team up to disrupt dangerous malware

Malicious software was delivered in infected email attachments containing Word documents

Vehicles are seen in a parking lot at the General Motors Oshawa Assembly Plant in Oshawa, Ont., on June 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
GM, Navistar team up to build hydrogen powered heavy trucks

GM has been researching hydrogen fuel cells for 50 years

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough responds to a question during a news conference Thursday August 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Easing rules for parental benefits created inequities among parents, documents say

Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act

File - In this Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 file photo, survivors of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz arrive for a commemoration ceremony on International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the International Monument to the Victims of Fascism inside Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland. The commemorations for the victims of the Holocaust at the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on Jan. 27, 1945, will be mostly online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)
Auschwitz survivors mark anniversary online amid pandemic

Memorial site closed to visitors because of the pandemic

FIFA set a new target to finalizing North American host cities for the 2026 World Cup. (File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
FIFA sets late-2021 target date to pick 2026 World Cup host cities

23 candidate cities likely need to be cut to 16

Hockey Alberta’s logo. (Photo courtesy Hockey Alberta Facebook)
Hockey Alberta sets deadline on decision for 2020-21 minor hockey season

Sustainability of league play for remainder of season under review

Well-known Rocky Mountain retreat Jasper Park Lodge has been booked out from the end of February until the end of April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lauren Krugel
Famous hotel in Alberta mountains reserved for nine weeks for private booking

Hotel could be a filming site according to online speculation

”Letterkenny” has signed a number of new merchandising deals, including one with collectible figurine creator Funko. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Bell Media, Amanda Matlovich
‘Letterkenny’ inks multiple licensing deals with merchandise companies

Expand on merchandise sold through show’s website

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, left, makes a save on Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk during second period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Mitch Marner scores game winner for Maple Leafs in 4-3 win over Flames

Mitch Marner scores game winner for Maple Leafs in 4-3 win over Flames

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2007, file photo, Boston Red Sox's Curt Schilling pitches against the Colorado Rockies in Game 2 of the baseball World Series at Fenway Park in Boston. Like many baseball writers, C. Trent Rosecrans viewed the Hall of Fame vote as a labor of love. The results of the 2021 vote will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, and Rosecrans was not alone in finding the task particularly agonizing this time around. With Schilling's candidacy now front and center — and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens still on the ballot as well — voters have had to consider how much a player’s off-field behavior should affect his Hall of Fame chances. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
Baseball Hall gets no new members; Schilling 16 votes shy

Baseball Hall gets no new members; Schilling 16 votes shy

Prince Edward Island’s Birt is bubble-bound but first wants provincial title

Prince Edward Island’s Birt is bubble-bound but first wants provincial title

Most Read