British Columbia

Prosecutors decline further charges in B.C. Legislature spending scandal following final RCMP report

Crown prosecutors say no further charges will be approved in connection with an investigation into a spending scandal at the B.C. Legislature that led to the ouster of two top legislative officials. 

Former sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, who was suspended in 2018, won't face charges

Craig James, the former clerk of the B.C. Legislature, retired in 2019 after an investigative report was made public. (Ben Nelms/Canadian Press)

Special prosecutors have declined further charges in connection to a spending scandal at the B.C. Legislature that led to the exit of two top legislative officials. 

The B.C. Prosecution Service said Tuesday that the two prosecutors assigned to the case had received the final RCMP report investigating the spending activities of senior staff at the legislature. 

David Butcher and Brock Martland declined to approve charges beyond the six that were originally laid against Craig James, the former clerk of the house, the service said. 

"The special prosecutors concluded that the charge assessment standard was not met with respect to any charges beyond those that have already been approved," the service said in a statement. 

It means former sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, who was suspended with James in November 2018, won't face charges.

"I am pleased with the decision of the special prosecutors with regards to the allegations against me," Lenz said in a written statement.

"Today, we see the how well British Columbia's criminal justice system functions. I have always maintained my innocence and now it is clear for everyone to see."

He added: "I look forward to putting this ordeal behind me and enjoying my retirement with my loved ones." 

In court last month, James pleaded not guilty to three counts of breach of trust and two counts of fraud over $5,000. A judge tossed out the sixth charge earlier this year, arguing it duplicated other charges and could prejudice the trial process. 

Trial expected in January

The Mounties began investigating staff at the legislature in 2018, and former speaker Darryl Plecas later produced a report that outlined allegations of misspending at the legislative assembly.

Plecas alleged James and Lenz engaged in inappropriate spending on personal items and foreign trips, including vacation payouts and retirement allowances.

Beverley McLachlin, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, was appointed after the Plecas report was released to look into the allegations.

In her report, she said James improperly claimed benefits and used legislature property for personal reasons, but that Lenz did not engage in misconduct.

A later report from a former senior Vancouver police officer found Lenz submitted untruthful statements to McLachlin. 

Lenz, who resigned in 2019, had said he denied the findings in the "strongest possible terms." James retired that same year, noting his family had been "ridiculed and vilified" by the controversy. 

The prosecution service said in July that James has elected a trial by judge alone, which is expected to start in Vancouver in January. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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