Lawyer demands legislature bring back B.C. officials, who deny wrongdoing - InfoNews

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Lawyer demands legislature bring back B.C. officials, who deny wrongdoing

An exterior view of the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria on August 26, 2011.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
November 23, 2018 - 4:30 PM

VICTORIA - A lawyer representing the two suspended top officials at the British Columbia legislature is demanding they be reinstated as soon as possible while an RCMP investigation continues.

The letter from Mark Andrews to the NDP, Liberal and Green house leaders calls for the legislature to rescind a motion that placed sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and clerk of the house Craig James on administrative leave.

Andrews says Lenz and James deny any wrongdoing and they do not know why they have been placed on leave.

"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," says the letter dated Friday, which was released by the Liberals.

"As a matter of basic fairness, they deserved to be told what it is alleged that they have done and to be given an opportunity to respond to those allegations."

The three-page letter is addressed to the NDP's Mike Farnworth, Liberal Mary Polak and the Green's Sonia Furstenau.

"Time is of the essence if some of the damage to our clients and to the public respect for the workings of the legislative assembly is to be undone," says the letter. "To be clear: our clients are not asking for the investigation to be stopped. They will co-operate with the investigation and any reasonable terms connected therewith, and wish it to proceed with dispatch."

Andrews could not be reached for further comment. None of the party house leaders or the legislature Speaker could immediately be reached as well.

Members of the legislature voted unanimously Tuesday to place Lenz and James on paid leave.

Farnworth, Polak and Furstenau said Thursday they met with Speaker Darryl Plecas on Monday evening to discuss the motion. The three house leaders also say they rejected a plan by Plecas to appoint Alan Mullen, his special adviser and friend, as acting sergeant-at-arms.

Mullen could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The letter from Andrews says neither Lenz nor James received any advanced notice of the motion and were "ejected from the legislature in what appears to have been a deliberately public and humiliating manner, on the basis of secret allegations."

Former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal, who was appointed as a second adviser to Plecas on Thursday, described the investigation as an alleged "complex criminal matter," but he wouldn't elaborate.

"I can understand the public being concerned about this, but time will tell and it will take some time before all this comes out," Oppal said Friday after meeting with Plecas and Mullen. "Those things take time. There's a very complex criminal matter going on."

Neither the RCMP nor the B.C. Prosecution Service have commented on the nature of the investigation and have not described it as a criminal matter. Two special prosecutors have been appointed to assist the RCMP in its investigation.

Oppal said details of investigations are kept private to ensure fair trials if charges are ever laid.

"Investigations go on all the time and sometimes they result in charges and sometimes they don't," Oppal said.

Oppal said attention has focused on the Speaker's actions in bringing the investigation forward and the hiring of Mullen, but those are secondary details to the investigation.

"The Speaker is a well-spoken, intelligent person with a great academic background and he didn't do anything in a capricious way," he added.

Oppal said the Speaker's actions throughout the unfolding situation at the legislature were based on advice he received, but he wouldn't say who advised the Speaker.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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