British Columbia

'We have no idea': Release reasons for RCMP investigation at B.C. Legislature, demands watchdog group

A Victoria-based political watchdog organization says the public has a right to know why two key officials at the British Columbia Legislature are being investigated by the RCMP.

RCMP investigating Clerk of the House Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz

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

A Victoria-based political watchdog organization says the public has a right to know why two key officials at the B.C. Legislature are being investigated by the RCMP.

Clerk of the House Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz are both under criminal investigation and have been suspended with pay. The two senior employees were escorted out of the legislature on Tuesday.

No details about the police investigation have been released — and Integrity B.C. is concerned about the impact the sudden and mysterious removals is having on public trust.

"We have to find a way, when public figures are under investigation, that we don't leave it to rumour mills on social media [and] speculation," said Dermod Travis, Integrity B.C. executive director.

The public has a right to know because of the importance of the men's roles in democracy, he told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

Travis likened the role of clerk of the house to "god" in the legislature: somebody who knows everything about every MLA, and "not somebody you really want to have on your bad side."

Sergeant-at-arms, meanwhile, is responsible for security at the legislature.

Dermod Travis, executive director of the watchdog group Integrity B.C., says he doesn’t believe the investigation is related to expenses, as some have speculated. (Daniel Beauparlant/CBC)

Speculation abounds 

"We have no idea whether it's into expense claims, whether it's into MLA conduct, whether it's into inappropriate use of Wi-Fi at the legislature — [There are] umpteen things it could be about," Travis said.

"Quite frankly, the RCMP has a responsibility to clear that up."  

James said Tuesday he doesn't know why he is being investigated.

"I have no idea and I think the sergeant-at-arms is equally shocked," he told reporters before leaving the legislature.

"Somebody knows something and I think, out of a fairness principle, both Gary [Lenz] and I should be informed, before we'd been placed on administrative leave, exactly what it involves."

B.C. Legislature Clerk of the House Craig James, right, and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, shown here in an earlier photo, were both put on administrative leave on Tuesday. (CBC)

'We might be in for a shock'

Both men had been on Integrity B.C.'s radar in the past for issues like travel expenses, large fluctuations in salary over the years and the discovery of payouts by the general auditor in 2012-13, Travis said.

But he doesn't believe the investigation is related to expenses, as some have speculated.

"I can't imagine that two special prosecutors would be appointed to solely look into the expense claims of two individuals," he said.

The investigation has been underway for at least three months, Travis added, based on a tip to the Victoria Police Department, who referred it to the RCMP.

"Three months of investigation at a minimum would suggest this is broad, widespread and we might be in for a shock in a few days."

Alan Mullen, special adviser to the Speaker of the House, says the investigation is into the two men's administrative duties. (Tanya Fletcher/CBC)

Alan Mullen, special adviser to B.C.'s Speaker of the House Darryl Plecas, confirmed the removal of the two men was not due to their salaries or expenses, which are reviewed and approved annually by a management committee.

"Anything that they are compensated, it is totally public," he said. 

"Everything is being looked at, but I would say that the investigation is into their administrative duties."

With files from The Early Edition

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