New Darryl Plecas report counters suspended clerk's explanation of booze run to Penticton

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      The speaker of the B.C. legislature, Darryl Plecas, has followed through on his pledge to provide a written response to Craig James and Gary Lenz.

      James is the clerk of the legislature and Lenz is the sergeant-at-arms—and both were placed on paid administrative leave in November.

      Plecas's original bombshell report outlined lavish expenditures on travel, clothing, electronics, subscriptions, and gifts, as well as major and costly changes to severance and wage payments to the two officials.

      James responded with a detailed explanation for much of what Plecas highlighted. Lenz did the same.

      So today, Plecas provided a reply to the two men's rebuttals.

      In particular, Plecas zeroed in on James's statement that former speaker Bill Barisoff paid $370 for wine delivered to him in Penticton.

      Plecas insisted that this amount of money "certainly does not accord with the accounts of two truckloads of alcohol that were loaded onto Mr. James's truck and which included beer and hard liquor—including a recent account I have received that, according to employees who were personally involved, the first load of alcohol included beer and a few wine boxes, and the second load of alcohol included wine and hard liquor."

      In addition, Plecas noted that James "provided no reasonable explanation as to why it would have been appropriate for the most senior officer of the Legislature to drive up to Penticton to sell wine and deliver a desk and chair to the former Speaker, stay overnight at the Penticton Lakeside Inn, and drive back the next day, billing all of the expenses to the taxpayers along with his very high salary for two days of work—noting as well that the value of the alcohol Mr. Barisoff purchased from the Legislative Assembly was only a fraction of the cost of Mr. James making the trip."

      Plecas also claimed that one visit to Washington state was described as a mission to learn about earthquake preparedness. But the speaker alleged in his report that it was actually a taxpayer-financed trip to a Seattle Mariners baseball game and a whale-watching voyage.

      Plecas's allegations have not been proven in court and James and Lenz have not replied to his new report. 

      The legislative assembly management committee has indicted that it will retain a retired job to investigate these claims.

      Plecas questions officials' judgement

      Broadly speaking, Plecas's report points to responses that he claimed were "demonstrably false".

      Another section deals with "unanswered or not believable responses". Yet another part of the report focuses on "brief responses to some statements wrongly attributed to me".

      "The most charitable interpretation of all of this is that Mr. James and Mr. Lenz really did, and do, consider that all these activities—the innumerable "business continuity" meetings and trips; the myriad of purchases; the electronics; the benefits and bonuses, and so on—were all proper and necessary business expenditures," Plecas wrote. "I disagree, and I expect the vast majority of British Columbians do too.

      "If Mr. James and Mr. Lenz do think that, I believe it shows a lack of judgment, and a repeated pattern of decision-making that is utterly unacceptable in senior executives of a public institution."

      Plecas then added: "On the other hand, if Mr. James and Mr. Lenz knew that their activities had no genuine business purpose—and the misleading documents and descriptions referred to in this reply report invite, at least at first blush, the conclusion that they may have—then that is much more problematic."