British Columbia

Chronology of a scandal: A timeline of the explosive Plecas report

The former clerk and sergeant-at-arms in the B.C. legislature became subjects of several investigations, criminal and otherwise, after allegations of outrageous misspending quietly compiled by House Speaker Darryl Plecas were presented to the public. This is how the scandal unfolded.

What began with bombshell allegations has resulted in 3 investigations and 2 resignations

Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, left, and Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Craig James make a statement to media in Vancouver, B.C., on Nov. 26, 2018, six days after they were suspended from their jobs at the provincial legislature. (Ben Nelms/Canadian Press)

It was about noon on Nov. 20, 2018 when then-Clerk of the House Craig James and Sergeant-At-Arms Gary Lenz were escorted from B.C. Legislature with little warning to sitting politicians or the public.

The two top officials shook their heads, clutching personal belongings they'd collected from their offices, and told reporters they had no idea what was going on as they were paraded across the lawn and off the property.

What was going on, as it became clear, was a scandal.

Lenz and James would go on to become subjects of several investigations, criminal and otherwise, spurred by allegations of outrageous misspending that had been quietly compiled for months by House Speaker Darryl Plecas.

The speaker published his claims in a bombshell report, accusing Lenz and James of spending taxpayer dollars on inappropriate vacations, personal purchases and padded retirement benefits. The report demanded a re-evaluation of spending oversight in the legislature.

Lenz and James would ultimately resign.

This is a chronology of how the scandal unfolded. It will be updated as the story develops.

Suspended Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, left, and Clerk Craig James leave a news conference on Nov. 26, 2018. (Ben Nelms/Canadian Press)

Sept. 8, 2017

After being courted by the NDP, Darryl Plecas agrees to become Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, effectively firming up the NDP-Green minority government. He is swiftly expelled from the Liberal caucus to sit as an independent, a move that had been foreshadowed earlier in the summer when he angered many in the party by demanding the resignation of then-leader Christy Clark. 

November 2017

Clerk of the House Craig James presents Plecas with two pieces of paper to sign, granting James and Lenz each a life insurance policy in the amount of three times their annual salaries. Plecas says he was led to believe that both men were entitled to the benefit and assumed it had been pre-approved by the Legislative Assembly Management Committee and the Department of Financial Services. He later discovered this was not the case and rescinds the document.

The meeting is the first of a handful of encounters in which the men asked Plecas to sign off on substantial benefit payouts.

December 2017

Plecas, James and Lenz take a 10-day trip to the United Kingdom, Plecas's first trip abroad in the role of speaker.

According to the Plecas's report, the trip was arranged entirely by James's office. Plecas later recounts in his report that he was "very surprised by how luxuriously we were travelling and how little we were doing for a work trip."

Later, it is revealed that while travelling on the public's dime, both on this trip and others, James and Lenz were in the habit of expensing items like expensive suits, luggage and gift-store purchases.

January 2018

Plecas hires friend and former Corrections Canada prosecutor Alan Mullen to act as his special adviser to look into matters of concern in the Legislative Assembly.

August 2018

The speaker, clerk and sergeant-at arms visit England again. On this trip, both James and Lenz are accompanied by their wives. In the Plecas report, documents call into question the accuracy of vacation days used, transportation claims and per diems charged by the two men. Eyebrow-raising expenses claimed include a suit, cufflinks and gift store purchases.

Back in Victoria, the speaker's office forwards information gathered in Mullen's investigation to the RCMP.

Nov. 20, 2018

James and Lenz are escorted out of the B.C. Legislature by police and suspended with pay amid a cloud of intrigue. Plecas and Mullen say the two men are subjects of a criminal investigation, but very few details are given.

Then-sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, centre, is escorted out of the legislature by security on Nov. 20, 2018 after he and then-clerk of the House Craig James were placed on indefinite leave pending a criminal investigation. (Dirk Meissner/Canadian Press)

Nov 26, 2018 

James and Lenz hold a news conference claiming they have done nothing wrong and calling for their suspensions to be reversed immediately.

"Gary and I have been deeply humiliated," said James.

Dec. 6, 2018

Facing an onslaught of criticism over the suspensions and the hiring of Mullen, Plecas comments that once a forensic audit is complete, the findings will "outrage taxpayers" and "make them throw up."

Jan. 21, 2019

Plecas releases his bombshell report into James and Lenz, documenting allegations of lavish trips, problematic expenses, outrageous retirement payments and cash-for-vacation schemes, among other things.

The report also questions the appearance of close ties between the B.C. Liberals and James, who is supposed to be a nonpartisan officer of the legislature. 

The report recommends a forensic audit and workplace review of the Legislative Assembly. 

Watch the timeline of events, from when the scandal was first brought to public attention to the day Plecas' scathing 76-page report was released:

How the B.C. Legislature spending scandal unfolded

5 years ago
Duration 3:50
Watch the timeline of events from when the scandal was first brought to public attention until the scathing 76-page report was released.

Jan. 25, 2019

In response to the Plecas report, Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson holds a news conference requesting the Liberals and NDP work together to "clean house" at the legislature.

Premier John Horgan calls the request "offensive," pointing out that the Liberals were in power during much of the alleged wrongdoing. 

Feb. 7, 2019

James and Lenz issue written statements denying all wrongdoing, defending their actions and saying they hope to return to work.

James calls the actions that have been taken against the pair "unfair and prejudicial."

Feb. 21, 2019

Plecas releases a second report, rebutting James and Lenz's defences of their spending.

The new report also details new allegations of overspending, including James's purchases of expensive luggage and other travel expenses.

Mar. 6, 2019

The three House leaders announce the appointment of former Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin to investigate allegations of misconduct against James and Lenz.

May 16, 2019

James announces his retirement as McLachlin's report on the scandal is released to the public.

She finds multiple examples of misconduct by the clerk, including his spending on expensive suits and luggage, his creation of retirement benefits for himself and public reimbursement of private insurance premiums.

The report clears Lenz of misconduct, though he remains on paid leave while the RCMP investigation and audit are underway. 

Oct. 1, 2019

Lenz resigns as sergeant-at-arms, saying the damage done to his reputation is irreparable. A statement says he believes he would be doing a disservice to his office if he continued in his role.

Former Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz speaks to reporters on May 16, 2019 after being cleared of misconduct in a review by former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin. Lenz resigned citing an irreparable reputation on Oct. 1. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Oct. 2, 2019

Horgan confirms searches are underway for a new clerk of the house and a new sergeant-at-arms.

The premier tells reporters he hopes the legislature "can turn the page" after the scandal in wake of resignations by James and Lenz.

Oct. 8, 2019

A new report from another investigation into Lenz's conduct, pertaining to his role as a special police constable, finds Lenz lied to McLachlin as she conducted her own investigation.

Doug LePard, former deputy chief of the Vancouver Police Department, found Lenz committed "very serious misconduct" by submitting untruthful statements to McLachlin. Lenz denies the findings in "the strongest possible terms."

Nov. 22, 2019

Newly released court documents reveal police are investigating whether the purchase of a wood splitter and trailer by James represented a criminal breach of trust.

Dec. 18, 2020

Crown prosecutors announce James has been criminally charged in connection with the scandal. James is facing four counts of breach of trust by a public officer and two counts of fraud over $5,000.

Jan. 24, 2022

James's trial for breach of trust begins in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. James pleads "not guilty" five times as a court clerk reads aloud the specifics of three charges of breach of trust and two charges of fraud.