Government remains tight-lipped on criminal probe into B.C. legislature staffers
An investigation into two senior officials at the B.C. Legislature remains shrouded in mystery a day after the pair were placed on indefinite leave and escorted from the building by police.
Head legislative clerk Craig James and Sergeant-At-Arms Gary Lenz were placed on administrative leave Tujesday amid a criminal investigation.
The bombshell motion to place them on paid leave was announced by B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth and approved unanimously by house members.
Two special prosecutors have been appointed to the case to aid RCMP in the probe.
Alan Mullen, the special advisor to house speaker Darryl Plecas, later confirmed RCMP were actively investigating the pair, but did not release details on the nature of the investigation.
He revealed few details Wednesday, confirming that an in-house investigation has been active since at least January – and RCMP got involved over the summer.
Mullen said Victoria police were contacted at the same time, but the investigation is now in the hands of RCMP. No search warrants have been executed so ar.
"As the months went on we gathered more information, and that just got passed off," Mullen told reporters.
He said the Office of the Speaker will not issue any more statements on the matter and referred reporters to the BC RCMP.
"The RCMP investigation is ongoing. The RCMP can speak to that if and when they're able to," he said. "We're at this place. It's an unfortunate place to be at. I think everybody's coming together to make sure the house can perform the duties, the members can do their jobs, and this place can function."
Asked about the lack of transparency around the investigation, Mullen said he understood the public and media's frustrations.
"I totally understand that the rumour mill is rampant. We need to clearly identify which unit of the RCMP is investigating so we can get rid of that speculation and look towards getting resolution to this," he said.
B.C. Attorney General David Eby also deflected reporters' questions Tuesday, saying no government employee could comment because of the active and ongoing investigation.
"I think that the public definitely deserves as much information as we can give them," Eby said. "The reality is right know there's an active investigation and we can't comment on this matter."
Dermod Travis, the head of political watchdog group Integrity BC, said the way the case has been handled so far isn't fair to the public or the accused.
"I think it is shocking, quite frankly, and the manner in which it was carried out was probably even more shocking," Travis said. "I don't think the public's been served by what happened yesterday, I don't think either of the two individuals have been treated fairly."
Speaking moments after the motion was passed on Tuesday, James told reporters he had "no idea" what the allegations against him were.
He mentioned he would seek legal counsel in the matter. Lenz has not commented publicly on the investigation.
The role of the sergeant-at-arms is to ensure the house and its members are protected during sessions, while the legislature clerk helps with direction and administration of the legislative assembly.
Lenz is earning $218,000 a year for his work, while James is one of the legislature's top-paid administrators at $347,000 a year.
A deputy clerk and deputy sergeant-at-arms are filling in James' and Lenz' roles in the interim.