VANCOUVER -- The Victoria Police Department has been called to investigate an apparent tampering with the case that holds the ceremonial mace of the B.C. legislature, CTV News has learned.

The tampering was discovered in late October, shortly after the end of the B.C. election, and the investigation is still in its early stages, said Alan Mullen, the former chief of staff to former Speaker Darryl Plecas.

“This was a very deliberate act that caused me and the Speaker great concern,” Mullen told CTV News.

And as the capital started buzzing with speculation on possible explanations – anything from an accident to a prank to an abandoned heist – Mullen said he and Plecas had their suspicions it was possible espionage.

“I’m of the opinion, the former Speaker is of the opinion, and others say the only reasonable explanation is a listening device in the Speaker’s office. That’s the road we’re going down here. It doesn’t make sense that someone was going to steal it because it wasn’t stolen,” he said.

A surprising allegation, but one that should be investigated and taken seriously, said Green Party house leader Sonia Furstenau, pointing to Plecas and Mullen’s track record of exposing widespread overspending in reports that resulted in the ouster of top legislature officials.

“The Speaker has uncovered a lot of things that need to be brought to light and that’s resulted in enormous change,” she said.

While officials were removing the mace for a photograph in late October, they noticed that the alarm system that protects it from theft wasn’t working.

On closer inspection, it appeared that the screws that hold down the stand had been removed — and the connections for the alarm had been disconnected.

Whoever did this did not steal the mace but left it in place, and NDP house leader Mike Farnworth did not say that he believed it was a potential theft.

“It could be something as simple as it wasn’t plugged in properly,” he said.

The mace is a symbol of the authority of the B.C. legislature, and is brought into the legislature in a Speaker’s procession at the opening and closing of each day’s sitting of the house.

The current mace is 11 pounds, made from silver, and plated with 24 karat gold.

It’s not the first time a Victoria government official has accused people of watching him – former Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell claimed spyware had been installed on his computer.

The claim was first seen as kooky, but eventually the District of Saanich admitted it had installed software called “Spectre 360” that records keystrokes and screen shots – and removed the software.