BC Premier John Horgan dazzled the poli-watchers of the world Thursday with a crisp statement on the latest happening in British Columbia’s long-playing saga involving public servants and public cash.
The “latest” happening at the time of this writing was the decision of Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz to formally resign from his prestigious position because “I no longer believe that I can continue to work for the legislative assembly of British Columbia. After considerable reflection, I have concluded that the damage that has been done to my reputation will never be fully repaired and that if I continued as sergeant-at-arms, I would be doing disservice to my office.”
And as far as Premier Horgan is concerned that little announcement signals “a turning of the page” – or pages outlining Lenz’s involvement in a messy story of questionable expense accounts.
Time for a deep breath here and a quick remembrance of the events of a few months ago that led to accusations of wrongdoing by highly-placed public servants, the dramatic removal from the Legislature of two – the powerful Clerk of the Assembly Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Lenz. Both were suspended from their duties “with pay.”
It would be fair to say in BC the spring months of 2019 were tumultuous.
Special crown prosecutors were appointed; the RCMP acknowledged it had been asked to take a look. Clerk James, still strongly protesting he had simply followed the rules, resigned as Clerk after former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, reviewed allegations of improperly claimed expenses.
In her opinion, James had wrongfully claimed benefits, but Lenz was cleared of misconduct charges. Lenz continued his suspension with full pay until a few days ago when he said he would finally step aside “with sincere regret … I have carried out my duties for the people of British Columbia with the utmost integrity …”
And Premier Horgan, with what sounded like a sigh of relief, told Canadian Press that with the departure of Lenz, “I absolutely hope that we are turning a page.”
Yes, yes, indeed, and so do we all. But I think we need a little more clarification. Former Chief Justice McLachlin suggested Lenz did not engage in misconduct. Does that mean Premier Horgan would like to hurriedly “turn the page” on Lenz forced from office by unproven charges?
Or does it mean there are other shoes to drop from special prosecutors or the RCMP? Should there be, I think we need to see them quickly now, and to act on them. If there has been misconduct, then let those who engaged in it be now held accountable.
McLachlin’s first opinion that Lenz did not participate in inappropriate spending was based on a report of concerns made by Speaker Darryl Plecas last January.
Premier Horgan told Canadian Press the search for a new clerk of the house is continuing. “This past year has been a cloud over the heads of many, many people who did not deserve that. So, I am hopeful that we can turn the page.”
I’m not sure who the “many, many people” are over whom the black cloud of disgrace has hovered falsely, but if Gary Lenz is one of them and he can prove his lengthy suspension was tantamount to wrongful dismissal – we’ll need a new tax to raise the compensation funds to pay him.
One thing is for sure: Premier Horgan may wish the James-Lenz pages could be turned and lost but the taxpayers would like to see the play to the final curtain.
And I’m sure that with patience, we shall.