No discipline possible to retired sergeant-at-arms
VICTORIA — The legislature’s former sergeant-at-arms cannot be disciplined for a finding of discreditable conduct in a new report, because he abruptly retired last week.
The NDP government house leader, Mike Farnworth, said there’s no ability to recover any salary, retirement, vacation or other benefits given to Gary Lenz when he was sergeant-at-arms. Lenz is accused in a new report of lying about his knowledge of missing liquor at the legislature and failing to investigate the incident.
“There’s employment law in the province, both provincial and national employment law, and what he’s entitled to are those benefits that are there under employment law and that’s it,” said Farnworth.
Lenz retired Oct. 1, allegedly after seeing an advanced copy of the report. The report was made public Tuesday. Lenz had been suspended with pay for almost a year during an RCMP investigation.
There does not appear to be an ability for the legislature to retroactively discipline Lenz or change his service record.
Municipal police officers who are found to have committed misconduct under the Police Act cannot escape discipline by retiring or resigning, and their service records are adjusted accordingly. But Lenz was a special constable, which is treated differently under the law.
Doug LePard, formerly chief of the Metro Vancouver Transit Police, had been commissioned by Speaker Darryl Plecas’s office to do an investigation of Lenz under B.C.’s Police Act. Lenz was a sworn special constable and head of the legislature’s security force.
LePard’s report also contained a political angle that put Premier John Horgan on the defensive Wednesday.
Geoff Meggs, Horgan’s chief of staff, had been given an early copy of a report by Plecas into misspending allegations at the legislature in July 2018, according to the LePard report. That was almost four months before clerk of the legislature Craig James and Lenz were suspended and the public was informed that two special prosecutors were overseeing an RCMP investigation.
“The Speaker left behind a copy of his report, but he (Meggs) subsequently shredded it, and didn’t brief the premier until the news broke in November nor did he have any further knowledge of the matter,” LePard wrote.
During a raucous question period Wednesday in the legislature, Opposition Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson accused Meggs of “obstruction of justice” for shredding a document that was part of a police investigation.
Wilkinson later released a letter to Horgan demanding Meggs be fired. “This is indefensible, as it is his obligation to bring possible criminal activity to the attention of police,” wrote Wilkinson. “Mr. Meggs’ conduct is an inexcusable obstruction of the judicial process.”
Horgan told the legislature the shredding was justified. “It was not a document created in the premier’s office, it was not a government document, there were no requirements to keep it because it had been passed on to police,” Horgan told the house.
Horgan told reporters the report “was no longer a document that was worth keeping” once Meggs told Plecas to give the information to the RCMP.
When asked who authorized Meggs shredding a document that might have been a government record and document of interest to police, Horgan said it was Meggs’ decision.
“Geoff shredded the document. It was his to shred. It was left behind after a meeting.”
Horgan later accused reporters of wanting “to make a mountain out of a molehill.”
In a statement, Meggs said the speaker “brought multiple copies of a draft report containing various allegations against the former clerk. As we later learned, many of the allegations turned out to be unsubstantiated.
“I was in no position to verify the allegations, and the premier’s office is rightly not involved in administration of the legislative assembly. For those reasons, and because of the seriousness of the allegations, I urged the Speaker to provide his information to the police.
“I was later advised by Deputy Speaker Raj Choujan that the Speaker had done so.
“The document I reviewed was not evidence, but a copy of a summary of internal investigations conducted by the Speaker’s office. There was no supporting documentation or back-up material.
“As the report was a duplicate and had nothing to do with the business of the government, I disposed of the copy of the report.”
Horgan also admitted Wednesday he knew some of the allegations against James and Lenz as early as the summer of 2018 because deputy speaker Raj Chouhan (an NDP MLA) told him about the case and asked him to meet with Plecas.
Horgan declined that meeting, fearing his personal dislike of the clerk would appear to make him biased. Horgan did not support James’ appointment as clerk several years earlier. Meggs had the meeting with Plecas instead.
Horgan’s admission he knew about legislature misspending allegations in the summer, and was later briefed on the Plecas report by Meggs in November, appeared to contradict comments he made at the time that he was in the dark about the case.
Horgan had previously claimed he didn’t know anything about the legislature scandal until Jan. 23 when Speaker Plecas released his bombshell report about misspending allegations publicly.
“The good news is I don’t know anything,” Horgan told reporters on Nov. 22. “And that is good news, because if there’s going to be an impartial investigation it has to be conducted with the same rigour that is at any other place.”
Horgan argued Wednesday he was not briefed on the material directly and the management of the legislature is not his responsibility but falls to MLAs on the all-party legislative management committee.
James resigned in May. He was found to have committed workplace misconduct during an investigation by former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin.
Lenz was cleared by McLachlin and asked for his job back.
But Plecas launched the LePard probe instead. LePard concluded Lenz had lied to McLachlin over what he knew about $8,000 in missing liquor that James had loaded into his own pickup truck at the legislature in 2013.
Neither James nor Lenz have been charged with any crime.