When Craig James was acting chief electoral officer, MLA Kash Heed kept seat after breaking election-expense rules

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Yesterday, the Straight explored the long relationship between the suspended clerk of the legislature, Craig James, and senior B.C. Liberals.

      The article mentioned criticism levelled by Integrity B.C. at James in 2011 for his oversight of the HST referendum.

      At the time, James was the acting chief electoral officer. He was later appointed as clerk of the legislature and he's now at the centre of a controversy over expense claims.

      Nothing, however, has been written recently about any role James could have played—as the acting chief electoral officer—in a B.C. Liberal MLA retaining his seat in the legislature following an election-expenses scandal in 2010.

      The previous year, former West Vancouver police chief Kash Heed defeated NDP candidate Gabriel Yiu by 748 votes in Vancouver-Fraserview.

      A subsequent investigation found that Heed overspent his campaign limit by about $4,000 and also filed a false election report.

      Heed resigned his cabinet position as solicitor general.

      The fine was linked to his campaign failing to account for controversial pamphlets distributed in the Chinese community.

      At the time, Heed claimed not to know of the existence of the pamphlets

      Under section 217 of the Election Act, an MLA "ceases to hold office and the seat of the member becomes vacant" for violating election spending limits unless relief is granted by a court under Section 219.

      Heed ended up being fined $8,000. He was permitted to keep his seat, thanks to a ruling by then B.C. Supreme Court chief justice Robert Bauman.

      During this period, James never issued any public statements suggesting that Heed should be forced out of office. 

      The issue was dealt with by special prosecutor Peter Wilson and Heed's defence team.

      The first special prosecutor, Terrence Robertson, stepped down after it was revealed that his law firm, Harper Grey LLP, was a donor to Heed's campaign.

      Around the same time, Wilson charged Heed's campaign manager, Barinder Sall, with more serious offences.

      After pleading guilty to six offences, Sall alleged to CBC in October 2011 that there were actually up to $40,000 additional unreported election expenses.

      "I have accepted full responsibility for my actions and errors," Sall told CBC News. "But I did not act alone."

      James's term as acting chief electoral officer expired on September 1, 2011, when he was replaced by Keith Archer. 

      Sall's revelation prompted a review by Elections B.C., under Archer's auspices, which concluded that there was no evidence to support Sall's claims.

      Heed ended up serving out his full term as the B.C. Liberal MLA for Vancouver-Fraserview and did not seek reelection in 2013.

      In a recently released 76-page report, Speaker Darryl Plecas claimed that the suspended sergeant-at-arms, Gary Lenz, told him that "Mr. James was not impartial and that he was in fact very close with the BC Liberal party".

      Lenz and James have issued a public statement declaring that they did nothing wrong and were never given a chance to rebut allegations in Plecas's report.

      After the 2017 election, James had three meetings with former premier Christy Clark in Vancouver and 14 meetings with former B.C. Liberal government attorney general Geoff Plant in Vancouver, according to expense claims cited by Plecas.

      Plant works at a law firm that billed the B.C. legislative assembly $185,627 from 2016 to 2018.