Two senior officials at the B.C. legislature—Craig James and Gary Lenz—want MLAs to rescind the motion that led to them being placed on paid administrative leave.
At a news conference at the law office of Fasken Martineau Dumoulin, the clerk of the legislature and the sergeant-at-arms each made the case that they should be allowed to return to work pending the outcome of an RCMP investigation.
"I have been removed without explanation—escorted out of the building in which I have worked for more than 30 years by police officers," James said. "Gary and I have been deeply humiliated.
"I can think of nothing that I have done that would disqualify me from carrying on with my office while this investigation is completed," the clerk continued. "I welcome the RCMP’s independent investigation and will fully cooperate with it. I know it will clear my name."
Lenz stated that he's confident that an RCMP investigation will clear his name, too. He also said that he believes everyone involved in this "unfortunate situation" has acted with the best of intentions.
"This is a difficult situation for everyone," the sergeant-at-arms said. "But I believe that weathering such a storm will make British Columbia stronger as next time, we will be able to prevent such a thing from happening before it is even able to start.
"We’ll be better positioned to protect our democratic institution and to protect such innocent people and faithful servants of the house—like myself, who deserve the same due process that every Canadian enjoys."
On November 20, assistant deputy attorney general Peter Juk announced that two Vancouver lawyers, David Butcher and Brock Martland, have been appointed as special prosecutors. To date, nothing has been released about the nature of the RCMP investigation into the two men, except that it is "criminal" rather than "political".
Both Lenz and James told reporters today that they have not been interviewed by the RCMP.
At the news conference, James said that after being appointed clerk in 2011, he "set out to assure the auditor general" that problems identified in a report were being fixed.
"Not long after, we received our first clean audit," James stated. "We have received one ever since. I can say categorically that I was not made aware of any concerns at any time and did not know about an investigation regarding my role as clerk."
Later in the news conference, he said that the way he was treated would have "little or no effect" on how he would do his job if he were to be reinstated.
"We're professional, we love the place, we love the people in it," James said. "Something has happened. There's a process in place, which we respect. And so for me, it should not be difficult whatsoever."
Last year, James was paid a $347,090 salary and billed $51,649 in travel expenses. Lenz was paid $218,167. He billed $23,079 in travel expenses.
James went into considerable detail about how expenses are reviewed.
This came after Canadian Press reporter Camille Bains cited a comment by the speaker, Darryl Plecas, that he "had a duty to taxpayers to ensure the management of the legislature operated with the greatest attentiveness to untoward operational activities".
"If it happens to do with travel—travel that I am on is 90 percent with members and probably 80 percent with the speaker," James said. "The speaker approves it and when we return from our business trips, I hand my expense claims to my assistant, who goes through them. And if there are any concerns, she raises them. I sign the document, and then it goes off.
"These are processes that I have put in place since 2011," he continued. "From there, it goes to the executive financial officer, who again casts her expert eye over the claims. From there, it goes to the director of financial services, who again casts his expert eye over the expenses. We stole him from the office of the auditor general. He's actually an auditor.
"And then from there, I think there's one or two others in financial services that will review everything. And if there is a problem or question about any aspect of that claim, it is then moved up back toward Hillary Woodward—the executive financial officer—who would then discuss it with me. And then we would resolve it, and away we go."
When Bains followed up by asking why James brought up how travel claims were overseen, James replied: "Well only in relation to the comment by the speaker."
James said that he still has a lot he wants to accomplish as clerk, including improving the physical security of the legislature's precinct. In addition, he talked about incorporating an Aboriginal page program, retrofitting and seismically upgrading the infrastructure, and producing a fifth edition of Parliamentary Practice in British Columbia.
"There are many other initiatives designed to be inclusive while enhancing our continuing pursuit of an economical, efficient, effective, and state-of-the-art legislature," he added.