British Columbia

Speaker of B.C. Legislature threatens to resign if audits don't find issues, calls situation a 'circus'

An all-party committee that oversees the financial management of B.C.'s legislature met Thursday afternoon, in the midst of an ongoing mystery that saw the building's top two officials placed on administrative leave while police conduct an investigation.

Sergeant-at-arms, clerk of the house were suspended more than 2 weeks ago

House Speaker Darryl Plecas is chairing an all-party meeting on legislature finances and 'personnel' issues on Thursday. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

The Speaker of British Columbia's legislature has promised to resign if proposed financial audits he's recommending don't prompt public outrage.

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

Members of B.C.'s Legislative Assembly Management Committee met on Thursday afternoon. (Michael Mcarthur/CBC)

Liberal House Leader Mary Polak demanded more answers about the nature of the allegations around the officials, but Plecas refused, saying doing so could jeopardize the police investigation.

After getting increasingly frustrated with the line of questioning, he told members of the committee he couldn't discuss the reasons behind the investigation but welcomed forensic audits of the Speaker, sergeant at arms and clerk's offices.

He said he would resign, along with his special adviser Alan Mullen, if those audits 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."

Clerk of the House Craig James, centre, is escorted out of the legislature after he and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were placed on leave. Allan Mullen, special adviser to Speaker Darryl Plecas, is on the right. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and house clerk Craig James were escorted from the building last month after the members of the legislature voted unanimously to place them on administrative leave because of the RCMP 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. The lawyer for Lenz and James couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

'I will be doing due diligence'

Plecas says soon after he was appointed Speaker last year, he was made aware of issues that warranted 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.

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.

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.

Liberal House Leader Mary Polak described the meeting as one of the strangest she had ever been involved in. (CBC)

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.

With files from Megan Thomas