Lawyers for suspended B.C. Legislature officials blast 'humiliating' way case handled
Lawyers for two top officials at the B.C. legislature who were placed on leave amid a mysterious criminal probe are slamming house leaders for the way they handled the case and calling for their clients to be reinstated.
In a letter addressed to NDP House Leader Mike Farnworth, Liberal House Leader Mary Polak and Green House Leader Sonia Furstenau, lawyers take issue with the way Clerk of the Legislature Craig James and Sergeant-At-Arms Gary Lenz were escorted out of the building by police following a unanimous vote to place them on administrative leave Tuesday.
"Neither of our clients were provided with any advance notice of this motion," wrote Mark D. Andrews, lawyer with the firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin. "Instead, immediately afterwards, they were ejected from the Legislature in what appears to have been deliberately public and humiliating manner, on the basis of secret allegations."
The allegations against Lenz and James remain unknown and two special prosecutors have been appointed to the case as RCMP investigate. All Mounties will say is that the investigation relates to the pair's administrative duties and responsibilities.
Andrews wrote in the letter that his clients still have not received any explanation for what he called "extreme treatment," beyond being told it was because of an "outstanding investigation."
He also says James and Lenz deny committing any wrongdoing.
"They are entitled to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. They are the most senior and long-serving and loyal servants of the legislative assembly whose reputations are in the process of being destroyed by these events," Andrews said.
Lawyers are calling for the house to rescind their motion to place Lenz and James on administrative leave – unless there is something specific in the allegations that would make it impossible for them to carry out their duties.
As Clerk of the Legislature, James is a key figure in directing and providing administration for the assembly, while Lenz' role is that of top security official at the legislature.
A day earlier, more twists and turns in the ongoing drama unfolded in the halls of the legislature as the leader and house leader of the BC Liberals expressed concern over speaker Darryl Plecas' handling of the case.
In a sworn affidavit, Mary Polak said Plecas approached house leaders a day before Lenz and James were suspended to request that Plecas' special advisor Alan Mullen – who headed up the in-house investigation into the pair – be given the sergeant-at-arms job in the interim.
Polak said the request was met with an emphatic "no" from both her and NDP House Leader Farnworth.
In his letter, Andrews also said Mullen has no standing to be involving himself in the case, and that he never should have been in charge of such a sensitive investigation.
Later in the day, Mullen announced that Plecas had appointed a second special advisor to assist with legal matters relating to the investigation – none other than former attorney general Wally Oppal.
Speaking to reporters at the legislature on Friday, Oppal declined to discuss specifics of the case because doing so could "compromise the selection of a fair jury and the right to a fair trial."
He would only call it a "complex criminal matter" and said it would take some time to resolve. Oppal also described a Friday morning meeting with Plecas as productive.
Read the full letter below: