British Columbia

B.C. Speaker says he didn't know who in the legislature to trust— so he hired Alan Mullen to help investigate

A few months into the job, Plecas asked longtime acquaintance Alan Mullen to come on board as his full-time special adviser, amid growing concerns over apparently lavish international travel, misappropriated alcohol and questionable benefits policies.

Special adviser to the Speaker of the House, Alan Mullen, discusses details of expense allegations

Alan Mullen, speaking to reporters the day after two officials from the B.C. Legislature were placed on indefinite leave, was hired by Darryl Plecas in January 2018 to help conduct an internal investigation. (Tanya Fletcher/CBC)

Darryl Plecas said red flags started going off about his colleagues' expense claims soon after he started as Speaker of the House in the B.C. Legislature.

A few months into the job, amid what he describes as growing concerns over allegedly "flagrant" overspending, Plecas hired long-time acquaintance Alan Mullen as his full-time special adviser to help investigate. 

"I was feeling uncertain about who I could trust. The prospect of having an adviser of my own choosing was attractive," Plecas wrote in a damning 76-page report released on Monday, listing the allegations. 

See how the explosive events unfolded over two months:

Watch the timeline of events from when the scandal was first brought to public attention until the scathing 76-page report was released. 3:49

Mullen, who initially met Plecas while working together in the prison justice system and later helped him with a political campaign, spoke with CBC Early Edition host Stephen Quinn about the expense allegations in the new report.

Clerk of the House Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, who were both suspended in November and escorted out of the legislature by police, have not been charged with any crime and deny any wrongdoing.

Clerk of the House Craig James, centre, being escorted out of the legislature after he and B.C. Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were placed on leave in November. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

James and Lenz say no reason for the investigation was given to them and described being taken out of the legislature as a "public humiliation."

Was this dealt with appropriately, in terms of how James and Lenz were removed?

Back in November, we couldn't really share much of anything with them as we did not want to do anything to thwart a potential police investigation. The only reason Victoria police were present is because the sergeant-at-arms is armed.

Also, they were offered to go out the side door and to have their items picked up for them. They chose to make it a public thing, so the idea of this "perp walk" was a little bit blown out of proportion.

Alan Mullen holds up a copy of the bombshell report into suspended Clerk of the House Craig James, and suspended Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Shouldn't Plecas have raised these concerns earlier?

You can't just raise concerns.

If you're going to make an accusation about somebody, especially the two highest appointed officers of the Legislative Assembly, you need to have something to back it up.

That's what the speaker and I have been doing: gathering information and documents, talking to people and looking at the evidence.

When you go through this report, what to you is the most disturbing allegation?

There's the buying of suits in London, purchasing a $3,000 wood-splitter that went directly to the private residence of Mr. James, the travel — those things are incredibly concerning.

But the most egregious is the notion of a retirement allowance.

I don't understand how any British Columbian would be OK with that. Nobody else gets a retirement allowance of $300,000.

It's just absolute craziness to receive a cheque for that amount of money when British Columbians are working their fingers to the bone just to make ends meet.

From left, Speaker Darryl Plecas, Clerk Craig James, and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz. (Gregor Craigie/CBC)

CBC requested interviews with Craig James and Gary Lenz.  

We were told they are reviewing the allegations and asked why Plecas prepared the report without giving them a chance to respond.

Can you answer that question?

It's not a normal situation: these folks are the highest appointed officers. They are appointed at the pleasure of the House and they must be removed by the pleasure of the House.

We would love to have been singing this from the rafters in December but we were handcuffed by the criminal investigation and the processes of the Legislative Assembly.  

This interview aired on The Early Edition on Jan. 22, 2019 and has been edited for clarity and structure. To hear the complete interview, click on the audio below.

With files from The Early Edition