Fraud, breach of trust case against former B.C. legislature clerk rests with judge

Fraud, breach of trust case against former B.C. legislature clerk rests with judge

Fraud, breach of trust case against former B.C. legislature clerk rests with judge

VANCOUVER — Defence lawyers for British Columbia’s former clerk of the legislature say the Crown has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that their client committed any crimes related to fraud or breach of trust.

In closing arguments Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court, Kevin Westell and Gavin Cameron said Craig James did not stand to personally gain from any of the allegations made against him, including the purchase of a wood splitter and trailer with public funds when those items were intended for emergency preparedness reasons.

Westell said the fact that James had to take the equipment home because there wasn’t a parking spot at the legislature is an illustration of “bureaucracy in action, and in inaction, more accurately.”

“There’s no dispute there was always sufficient physical open space (at the legislature area) to fit the items. But they would be an eyesore, turning the front lawn of a tourist attraction into a literal trailer park, we say.”

Cameron said the Crown has no evidence that James intended to permanently keep the wood splitter and trailer, and that he paid to have them stored after his wife wanted the equipment put elsewhere.

Former manager Randy Spraggett had the idea to buy the wood splitter and trailer despite the availability of a parking spot but James had ongoing conversations with others exploring various potential spaces at the legislature, Westell told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, who reserved her decision in the case.

Locations they considered included a lawn that would be too soggy during rainy weather and a space that could be created using crushed rock, though that was ruled out as being too close to the street and susceptible for use as a garbage receptacle by the public, Westell said.

The wood splitter and trailer were bought after discussions about the lack of power for several weeks in a large area of Puerto Rico, and the belief that some equipment would be needed at the legislature to cut wood, rebar and concrete as well as to rescue trapped people, he said.

Westell also said a form approving the purchase of the wood splitter and trailer was signed by then-Speaker Darryl Plecas, who published a report in 2019 detailing allegations of misspending involving other items as well after James was escorted from the legislature by the RCMP.