B.C. legislature speaker Darryl Plecas is bringing in a second “special advisor” to help him navigate the investigation of senior administrators, former B.C. Supreme Court judge and attorney general Wally Oppal.
Plecas sent out his first advisor, Alan Mullen, to deliver a terse statement to reporters waiting outside his office Thursday afternoon. Plecas had earlier promised to make his first public statement on the sudden suspension of Clerk of the House Craig James and Sergeant at Arms Gary Lenz on Tuesday, but then cancelled.
James and Lenz were relieved of their keys and phones and escorted from the legislature by police while it was in session Tuesday morning. Mullen then announced that an investigation he had assisted with since he was hired by Plecas in January had been turned over to the RCMP.
No reason for the suspensions were given, either publicly or to James and Lenz, who were escorted out of the legislature by police and placed in indefinite “administrative leave” with pay.
Thursday morning, B.C. Liberal house leader Mary Polak disclosed that Plecas had called a meeting with her, NDP house leader Mike Farnworth and B.C. Green house leader Sonia Furstenau to prepare for the suspensions.
Polak said the meeting was to prepare for the announcement of two special prosecutors to assist with an RCMP investigation of unspecified allegations against James and Lenz. During the meeting, Plecas asked if Mullen could be appointed acting sergeant at arms, a suggestion immediately rejected as inappropriate by Polak and Farnworth.
On Thursday, the legislature approved a motion to appoint Deputy Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd as acting clerk of the house, a key independent officer position that manages legislative proceedings and administers the $70 million budget for the legislature and constituencies.
Deputy Sergeant at Arms Randall Ennis was appointed to fill in for Lenz, in charge of security for the legislature.
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson wouldn’t comment on whether Mullen should continue as a political advisor to Plecas, a previously unknown role, appointed without the knowledge of MLAs.
“I think all of us are concerned to find out that there had been a seven-month long investigation by someone with no legal training or policing experience, and that this was being effectively hidden from the accountable assembly, which is the legislature,” Wilkinson said.
Farnworth said Thursday he still has confidence in Plecas as speaker, an appointment Farnworth orchestrated at the outset of the minority NDP government last year that resulted in Plecas being expelled from the B.C. Liberal Party.