Inside legislature probe

A special adviser to the Speaker at British Columbia's legislature says an ongoing RCMP investigation is focusing on the roles and administrative duties of the clerk of the house and its sergeant-at-arms.

Clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz were escorted out of the building Tuesday after members of the legislature voted unanimously to place the two top officers on paid administrative leave.

Special adviser Alan Mullen said Wednesday he cannot provide further details about the investigation.

"It's to do with their roles as clerk and sergeant-at-arms and it's to do with their administrative duties," he said in an interview. "We're looking at a lot of different things but I couldn't comment further because the investigation is ongoing."

On Tuesday, Mullen said there is a "criminal investigation" in the case.

The RCMP would not confirm it is conducting a criminal investigation. The B.C. Prosecution Service and two special prosecutors overseeing the case declined comment Wednesday when asked if a criminal investigation is being conducted.

Later on Wednesday, Mullen said he was hired in January by Speaker Darryl Plecas to work on issues of concern, which included issues related to the legislature investigation.

"I was brought in for a number of different reasons, including this," he told a news conference at the legislature.

Mullen said he and Plecas know each other professionally and are friends after working together at federal prisons in B.C.'s Fraser Valley.

Plecas, who has yet to comment on the investigation, is a criminologist. As a federal prison judge he conducted hearings where inmates were charged by prison officials for engaging in behaviours that pose threats to the safety of corrections staff and other inmates.

Mullen said he conducted numerous investigations while employed as the correctional manager at the Kent Institution for a decade.

Mullen did not provide details of what information has been gathered since last January but he said it was provided to the RCMP in late August.

Neither Lenz nor James could be reached for comment on Wednesday.

As he was leaving the legislature on Tuesday, James said he didn't know why he was placed on leave.

"I have no idea but I'm sure I'll find out in due course," he said. "I think we have a right to know immediately what it is, and I hope that we soon find out what it is and we can go from there."

Lenz did not comment as he was leaving the building.

The RCMP said in a statement Tuesday an investigation is underway and B.C.'s prosecution service said two special prosecutors were appointed Oct. 1 "in relation to an investigation being conducted into the activities of senior staff at the British Columbia legislature." The RCMP and the prosecution service did not say in their statements who is the subject of the investigation.

The Mounties gave no indication on how long the investigation might take.

Gerald Baier, a University of British Columbia political science professor, said proceedings at the legislature will continue as deputies assume the duties of the clerk and sergeant-at-arms but some people might be concerned about the impression the situation leaves on the political institution.

"The one thing that worries me is if people get a bad impression of our institutions as a result of this," he said. "Does this give a negative impression of politics or political institutions?"

The sergeant-at-arms is responsible for maintaining order in the legislative chamber and other areas used for the business of the house. The clerk of the house gives non-partisan advice to the Speaker, can be consulted on procedural matters and maintains a record of all the legislature's proceedings.

Lenz is a former RCMP detachment commander in nearby Sidney, B.C., who was appointed the legislature's sergeant-at-arms in February 2009. James was appointed clerk of the house in 2011.

Attorney General David Eby and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth declined comment Wednesday because of the ongoing investigation.

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