British Columbia

B.C. premier hopes legislature is 'turning a page' on spending scandal after resignations

British Columbia Premier John Horgan says he hopes the retirement of the legislature's sergeant-at-arms will mark a turning point for the institution after allegations of misspending were first raised nearly one year ago.

House officials accused of misspending have resigned in wake of scandal that broke last year

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks to media during a news conference in May. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. Premier John Horgan says he hopes the retirement of the legislature's sergeant-at-arms will mark a turning point for the institution after allegations of misspending were first raised nearly a year ago.

Gary Lenz, who was embroiled in the spending scandal, announced Tuesday he is retiring, saying the damage to his reputation can no longer be fully repaired after he was placed on administrative leave last year.

Horgan said Wednesday he has confidence in those who work at the legislature.

"I absolutely hope that we are turning a page,'' he said at a news conference in Surrey, B.C.

"I'm very proud of our institutions in British Columbia and in Canada. We are so blessed to have strong democratic institutions that are represented not just in the buildings, whether it be the House of Commons or the legislative assembly, but the people that work there every day to try and serve the people of British Columbia as best they can.''

Former clerk of the house Craig James announced his retirement in May after Beverley McLachlin, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, released a report into overspending allegations against him and Lenz.

Craig James resigned from the position of clerk of the legislative assembly in May after the release of an investigative report into a spending scandal at the B.C. Legislature found he had committed misconduct. (Ben Nelms/Canadian Press)

She concluded that James improperly claimed benefits and used legislature property for personal reasons, but that Lenz did not engage in misconduct.

Both Lenz and James have denied any wrongdoing.

In a statement in May, James said he provided detailed written submissions and supporting documents to the legislative assembly about the allegations made against him, but many of them were not referred to or addressed in McLachlin's report.

On Tuesday, Lenz said he had resigned and retired as sergeant-at-arms with "sincere regret.''

Former sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz speaks to reporters in May 2019 after being cleared of misconduct. Lenz resigned from his post, citing irreparable damage to his reputation, on Oct. 1. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

"I have carried out my duties for the people of British Columbia with the utmost integrity and am proud of the many initiatives that have been put in place during my time as sergeant-at-arms,'' said Lenz in a statement.

"However, I no longer believe that I can continue to work for the legislative assembly of British Columbia. After considerable reflection, I have concluded that the damage that has been done to my reputation will never be fully repaired, and that if I continued as sergeant-at-arms, I would be doing a disservice to my office.''

Search for replacements continues

Horgan said the search for a new clerk of the house is ongoing.

"This past year has been a cloud over the heads of many, many people who did not deserve that. So I am hopeful that we can turn the page,'' he added.

"I am very confident that the people that work in our institutions are doing the best they can. This has been a difficult time for everybody.''

McLachlin's report only looked at the administrative allegations made by legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas in a report he released in January.

An explosive 2018 report from house Speaker Darryl Plecas, pictured, alleged that house officials Gary Lenz and Craig James had spent lavishly on travel and had claimed reimbursements for things that had no relation to their jobs, including suits, luggage, gifts and a wood-splitter. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

The Speaker alleged that Lenz and James engaged in inappropriate spending on personal items and foreign trips. His report also alleged inappropriate vacation payouts and retirement allowances.

The RCMP said last November that it was investigating staff at the legislature, but it has not said who is the subject of the probe. Its investigation was aided by two special prosecutors, who have not commented on the case.

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