BY BILL PHILLIPS
After joking that he doesn’t know how to operate a log-splitter, Premier John Horgan got serious about Speaker Darryl Plecas’ report alleging questionable spending at the Legislature.
“Like all of you, I was shocked by the allegations brought forward by the speaker,” he said during a media scrum at the BC Natural Resources Forum in Prince George. “Clearly it speaks to the need for further audits.”
Plecas tabled a report to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee Monday concerning allegations of financial misconduct by clerk of the privy council Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz. One of those allegations involved a wood-splitter that was purchased by the province and apparently delivered to James’ home. Horgan said called some of the spending items “bizarre.”
He said House Leader Mike Farnworth will be working with the committee to get to the bottom of the scandal, which saw James and Lenz relieved of their duties, with pay, in November and the launch police investigation.
“Clearly, after 16 years of a sense of entitlement at the legislature, it’s time to clean that up,” said Horgan. “I’m confident we will be able to do that … I give full marks to Speaker Plecas, despite the horrendous smearing of his character that went on from the BC Liberals. He has shed a light on something all British Columbians are startled and disgusted by and I think that’s a good thing.”
Horgan said James was appointed to the clerk’s position “arbitrarily,” by former Liberal cabinet minister Rich Coleman.
“The clerk of the legislature is supposed to impartial, supposed to be there for all members, focused not on themselves, but on the institution,” he said. “ … At the time (of James’ appointment in 2011), I spoke passionately in the legislature, as did Adrian Dix, about how just plain wrong it was (for the Liberals) to assume they could dictate how our institutions are run.”
He said Legislative Assembly Management Committee will work on securing an independent audit of the legislature.