Former Supreme Court justice Beverley Mclachlin leads B.C. investigation
Victoria: British Columbia’s legislature ratified the appointment of a retired chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday to investigate allegations of spending abuses at the legislature.
Beverley Mclachlin was unanimously appointed to conduct an independent investigation of allegations facing clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, who have been suspended with pay since November after the legislature learned of an ongoing RCMP investigation.
New Democrat House Leader Mike Farnworth told the legislature Mclachlin will be appointed “as special investigator to conduct a confidential, impartial and independent investigation.” Speaker Darryl Plecas alleged in a report last January that Lenz and James engaged in inappropriate spending on personal items and on foreign trips.
Lenz and James, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, deny any wrongdoing and filed written responses that outline how their expenses were approved. In those responses, they said the Speaker’s report harmed their reputations.
An all-party legislature management committee voted last month to conduct an independent fact-finding probe led by a top legal official. The three house leaders are on the committee and Plecas serves as its chairman. The terms of reference for Mclachlin, who is scheduled to report by May 3, says she will review Plecas’s report, the written responses and legal submissions by Lenz and James and the subsequent Speaker’s report on the written responses.
Mclachlin will examine if the clerk and sergeant-at-arms improperly and knowingly received improper pay outs of vacation pay, improperly claimed and received retirement allowances, and improperly made purchases of a personal nature and expensed them to the legislature. “We sat down with our lawyer and we looked at things in the report that most concerned all of us on the committee and she’s (Mclachlin) going to be looking at all those issues in the (Plecas) report,” Farnworth said after the legislature vote.