The B.C. legislature’s former top cop Gary Lenz — who retired Oct. 2 while suspended — lied to Justice Beverley McLachlin during her administrative policy investigation, according to an independent Police Act investigation report by Doug LePard released Tuesday.
LePard concluded Lenz committed “very serious misconduct” by providing “untruthful oral and written statements to Justice McLachlin.”
Furthermore, unlike McLachlin — who previously cleared Lenz of administrative misconduct allegations by Speaker of the House Darryl Plecas — LePard found Lenz had committed Neglect of Duty under the Police Act for failing to adequately investigate misappropriation of liquor by legislature clerk Craig James in 2013. LePard, however, concluded there are mitigating circumstances that rule out possible discipline.
Lenz should face disciplinary proceedings for lying, LePard concluded. However, Lenz retired days ahead of the report’s release. Lenz was the sergeant-at-arms (SAA) of the B.C. legislature, which oversees government operations at the parliament buildings in Victoria. In a similar manner, James also avoided discipline when he retired a day after McLachlin’s report from May found he committed four counts of misconduct.
At the centre of Lenz’ misconduct is the alleged theft of liquor from the buildings by James. LePard’s report states how, according to now-acting clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd, James had bought a substantial amount of booze for at least two conferences in 2013. The leftovers were subsequently loaded onto James’ truck. James claimed the booze was to be sent to outgoing Speaker Bill Barisoff as a gift. McLachlin reported Barisoff received only a small amount and paid for it.
This was one of many allegations brought to light by Plecas; another allegations included the now-infamous purchase of a wood splitter by James with legislature money but found in his personal possession. James and Lenz also took numerous expensive junkets and bought personal items on the taxpayer’s dime, a January report from Plecas outlined. Last November, in dramatic fashion, police escorted the two senior managers out of the Legislature after the announcement of two special prosecutors being assigned to an RCMP investigation, which is ongoing.
LePard’s investigation came about after Plecas’ chief of staff Alan Mullen lodged a formal complaint via Plecas for failing to adequately investigate the misappropriation by James “of a large amount of liquor.”
But during the course of the Police Act investigation, LePard determined Lenz lied to McLachlin while she was probing whether legislature rules had been broken by the two men.
According to Plecas and Mullen, Lenz had alleged to them that James committed “theft” of the liquor (a truck full of as much as $8,000 of booze, according to witness reports to LePard). But he didn’t say as much to McLachlin.
Based on interviewing witnesses who worked in the legislature during the time of the alleged theft, LePard said, “In my view, the evidence is clear that SAA Lenz was not telling the truth when he said orally and in writing to Justice McLachlin that he assumed the liquor was being returned for refund and ‘is not aware of any theft of alcohol.’ SAA Lenz was not telling the truth when he denied to Justice McLachlin that he had told the Speaker and Mr. Mullen in 2018 that the 2013 liquor incident
was a theft.”
LePard said, “Credible and reliable witness and documentary evidence strongly rebuts SAA Lenz's evidence to Justice McLachlin.”
Among the testimony was that of Plecas, who has been subject to ongoing criticism from the BC Liberal party. It’s a matter LePard addressed:
“I found the Speaker to be a credible witness motivated to address misconduct in challenging circumstances (including hostility from the BC Liberal Party over his decision to take the Speaker’s role, and controversy some of his alleged extraordinary actions have generated). While mistaken or misinformed on some non-significant points, the main parts of his evidence were strongly corroborated by other witnesses as well as documentary evidence, and therefore I found it to be reliable.”
LePard has a 37-year record in law enforcement, including as the deputy chief
of the investigation division in the Vancouver Police Department and the chief of the Metro Vancouver Transit Police.
Plecas left the BC Liberal caucus to take on the neutral Speaker’s role, thus allowing the NDP to form a slim majority coalition with the BC Greens in summer 2017. Since then, he has investigated the conduct of James and Lenz while overseeing the legislature, as is the Speaker’s duty.
Plecas has painted a picture of a precinct with little to no oversight, something confirmed by McLachlin.
Some improper conduct even extended to the Speaker position itself. Prior to 2017, Liberal MLA Linda Reid served the role, although she was forced to pay back money to the legislature after she had taxpayers fund her husband’s travel to South Africa for a legislature junket.
Reid, LePard noted, refused to respond directly to his questions, instead choosing to use her lawyer.
Reid’s lawyer George Cadman, Q.C., “declined to provide a response to my question of whether Ms. Reid had any knowledge of the 2013 liquor incident involving Mr. James,” wrote LePard.
“He also declined to provide a response to my question about Ms. Reid's recollection of speaking to Ms. Ryan-Lloyd (then deputy clerk) about the incident. He advised that it was his opinion that these questions were not relevant to my investigation,” added LePard.
Kate Ryan-Lloyd is now the acting clerk, in place of James. She told LePard she spoke about the incident with then-Speaker Reid in the context of policy discussions regarding Legislative Assembly property.
Reid told Glacier Media Wednesday she does not recall that conversation. She said she was unable to speak to LePard by phone because she was travelling.
Reid’s lawyer denied Lenz had approached Reid about the incident. LePard’s report however is focused on complaints against Lenz, not Reid.
As for why Lenz did not investigate James, Lenz provided “inconsistent” versions of events to McLachlin and Plecas, LePard noted, based on witness testimony, namely Ryan-Lloyd’s.
Ryan-Lloyd told LePard that at the time of the alleged liquor theft, Lenz had voiced concerns to her about wrongdoing, although he never checked with the budget office to see if the liquor was returned.
When Ryan-Lloyd was “provided the information that SAA Lenz had told Justice McLachlin that he never believed that Mr. James had engaged in wrongdoing regarding taking the liquor and assumed it had been returned for a refund, she (Ryan-Lloyd) said that was ‘not accurate,’” wrote LePard.
One witness told LePard of a distinct workplace culture between James and Craig.
“Witness 3 worked for SAA Lenz from 2009 until when he fired her without cause. She recalled the April 2013 liquor removal incident, but said it was not remarkable to her because of other conduct involving SAA Lenz that she described to me and regarded as unethical,” wrote LePard. “She described SAA Lenz being very close with Mr. James, and that they had a ‘scratch your back…’ relationship.”
According to LePard’s report, Premier John Horgan kept his distance from the investigation; however, his chief of staff Geoff Meggs was briefed July 30, 2018, by Plecas, Mullen and Deputy Speaker Raj Chouan on a long list of allegations against Lenz and James.
Horgan was previously told by Meggs there was concerning information about James but had instructed Meggs to take the meeting to remove himself from any perceived bias or conflict of interest since he had opposed the BC Liberal government’s appointment of James.
Meggs kept the meeting details from Horgan until the special prosecutors were announced Nov. 19, 2018.
Plecas had given Meggs a 40-50 page report outlining allegations of improper conduct. LePard wrote that Meggs said, “Every page had surprising material and that the liquor incident was not the most shocking part.”
Meggs told Plecas to take the information to police – something LePard notes had already been done by Plecas. He subsequently shredded the copy of the report handed to him. Meggs did pen a memo of the meeting to Don Wright, Horgan’s deputy minister.
(While LePard’s report attempted to protect the identities of interviewed witnesses it does refer to the Premier’s chief of staff as Witness 10.)
Five takeaways from the Police Act investigation of former B.C. legislature sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz:
1. Report supports Darryl Plecas’ credibility despite BC Liberal criticism
2. ‘Scratch your back’ culture emanated from B.C. legislature, witness said
3. RCMP investigation is ongoing
4. Former Speaker of the House Linda Reid refused to be interviewed
5. Premier John Horgan distanced himself from investigation but his staff was briefed before clerk and sergeant-at-arms were removed from B.C. legislature