Beverley McLachlin to investigate B.C. legislature spending allegations

By The Canadian Press
March 6, 2019 - 5:45pm

VICTORIA — A former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada has been selected to investigate allegations of spending abuses at British Columbia's legislature.

Beverley McLachlin's appointment is expected to go before the legislature for ratification on Thursday, but the three party house leaders announced they have retained her services.

Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and Clerk Craig James have been suspended with pay since November after members of the legislature learned of an RCMP investigation.

In a report released in January, Speaker Darryl Plecas alleged the two men have engaged in inappropriate spending including on foreign trips.

Lenz and James deny any wrongdoing and have filed written responses that outline how their expenses were approved, and saying the Speaker's report harmed their reputations.

A committee that oversees the management and financial operations of the legislature voted last month to conduct an independent fact-finding probe led by a top legal official. The three house leaders are on the committee.

McLachlin will conduct that investigation and present a final report to the house leaders by May 3.

NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said McLachlin's name was at the top of everyone's list to lead the probe.

"It needed to be someone who people recognized, who was beyond question, someone with a judicial background that could deal with the issues that we're facing," he said.

She will review the reports that have already been written on the allegations, he said, and the committee hopes she will provide answers to questions that it has had when it comes to making any decisions about the status of Lenz and James.

The terms of reference for the special investigation direct McLachlin to conduct a "fair, impartial and independent investigation" into whether the two officials committed misconduct.

The terms say the reports to be reviewed by the investigator include the Speaker's report in January, the written responses and legal submissions by Lenz and James, and the Speaker's report on the written responses.

In addition to reviewing those documents, McLachlin may also interview anyone she deems appropriate. Plecas, James and Lenz may provide further verbal or written evidence.

The terms say her final report will summarize the allegations and any interviews she conducted, outline findings of fact and provide an analysis and conclusion. She may also make one or more interim reports to the house leaders.

The Canadian Press

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