Kamloops News

B.C. sergeant-at-arms retires after legislature spending review

Suspended Sgt-at-arms Gary Lenz gives an interview from the backyard at his home in North Saanich, B.C., Thursday, May 16, 2019.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA - The sergeant-at-arms of the British Columbia legislature announced his retirement Tuesday, saying the damage to his reputation can no longer be fully repaired after he was placed on administrative leave last year when questions were raised about his spending.

Gary Lenz was embroiled in a spending scandal that shook the legislature and saw former clerk of the house Craig James announce his retirement in May.

Lenz's retirement, effective when it was handed in on Tuesday, was announced by legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas in a two-paragraph statement.

Lenz said he had resigned and retired as sergeant-at-arms with "sincere regret."

"I have carried out my duties for the people of British Columbia with the utmost integrity and am proud of the many initiatives that have been put in place during my time as sergeant-at-arms," said Lenz in a statement.

"However, I no longer believe that I can continue to work for the legislative assembly of British Columbia. After considerable reflection, I have concluded that the damage that has been done to my reputation will never be fully repaired, and that if I continued as sergeant-at-arms, I would be doing a disservice to my office."

Beverley McLachlin, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, was appointed last March to look into overspending allegations against James and Lenz.

She concluded James improperly claimed benefits and used legislature property for personal reasons, but Lenz did not engage in misconduct.

Both Lenz and James have denied any wrongdoing.

In a statement in May, James said he provided detailed written submissions and supporting documents to the legislative assembly about the allegations made against him, but many of them were not referred to or addressed in McLachlin's report.

Lenz said it has been a "privilege" to serve the people of British Columbia.

"I have served my office with loyalty and integrity and have co-operated with every request that has been made of me since being removed from office in November 2018," said Lenz. "I am thankful for the many people who have supported me through this difficult time and for the opportunity to serve as the British Columbia legislature's sergeant-at-arms for the past 10 years."

McLachlin's report only looked at the administrative allegations made by Plecas in a report he released in January.

The Speaker alleged that Lenz and James engaged in inappropriate spending on personal items and foreign trips. His report also alleged inappropriate vacation pay outs and retirement allowances.

The RCMP said last November that it was investigating staff at the legislature, but it has not said who is the subject of the probe. Its investigation was aided by two special prosecutors, who have not commented on the case.

James and Lenz were escorted from the legislature building by security officials on Nov. 20, 2018, after members of the house voted unanimously to place the two top officers on paid administrative leave.

Lenz is a former RCMP detachment commander in nearby Sidney, B.C., who was appointed the legislature's sergeant-at-arms in 2009. James was appointed clerk of the house in 2011.

The sergeant-at-arms is responsible for maintaining order in the legislative chamber and other areas used for the business of the house. The clerk of the house gives non-partisan advice to the Speaker, can be consulted on procedural matters and maintains a record of all the legislature's proceedings.

Alan Mullen, a spokesman for Plecas, said he expects an acting sergeant-at-arms will be serving at the legislature next week when politicians return to for the start of the fall sitting.

"I would say we're going to have an acting sergeant-at-arms to follow through on the duties, certainly the ceremonial aspects, carrying in the mace, being in the house as well as running the legislative assembly protective services," he said.

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