Craig James should repay more than $260,000, critics say
Craig James should repay hundreds of thousands of dollars of inappropriate spending, and if he doesn’t B.C. should consider using the same process that can be used to get assets back from organized criminals, said Dermod Travis of watchdog group Integrity B.C.
"Civil forfeiture should be something that’s on the table," Travis told CTV News Vancouver. "The idea that you can use public funds and walk away with your hands clean is not a message the legislature should be sending to British Columbians."
B.C. Speaker Darryl Plecas also said he felt anyone who received money improperly should repay it.
"I think I said a long time ago I think monies that people received that they shouldn’t have received, taxpayers should get that money back," he said.
James retired Thursday, after a report by former Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin found he had engaged in misconduct in four of five contentious areas. McLachlin cleared Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, another top official who had been enveloped in the scandal.
NDP House Leader Mike Farnworth said James made a "non-financial settlement" and will receive a standard public pension.
It wasn’t immediately clear what a "non-financial settlement" meant.
A tally by CTV News Vancouver shows for the first time the scale of the scandal.
Estimates based on figures in the first Speaker's reports that publicized the allegations against James and Lenz show the pair were initially accused of misspending almost $780,000.
Lenz’s total was $171,600, the estimates show, consisting mainly of $160,000 in vacation day payouts the Speaker’s office worried were excessive, and about $11,000 of other expenses such as gifts, dinners or improperly claimed per diems.
McLachlin’s report did not find misconduct in the vacation payouts, and found the other expenses were part of his job.
James’s total was about $607,000. The vacation payouts totaled about $243,000, which McLachlin also didn’t find fault with.
James, or his office, also spent $100,000 in questionable expenses, including about $1,000 on a whale watching tour, another $1,000 on attending a Mariners game, around $5,000 on magazine subscriptions and around $2,500 on a camera and other expenses.
McLachlin didn’t find misconduct on all of those expenses.
But she did find around $5,500 in suits, clothing and luggage couldn’t be explained by James’s story of changing the uniforms at the legislature, or creating a "luggage bank" for MLAs.
On the largest single expense, a $268,000 retirement allowance, McLachlin found that James wasn't entitled to it, but obtained it anyway.
“I can, however, conclude Mr. James turned a blind eye to the question and in so doing failed to meet his duty to confirm if there was any foundation for the lump sum payments before they were all paid out,” McLachlin wrote in her report.
“With these red flags waving, Mr. James made no inquiries and in due course accepted, apparently without question, the $257,988.00 sum it conferred on him,” she wrote.
There could be even more money that taxpayers weren’t aware of, said Travis, who said the “non-financial agreement” should be made available.
“There are a number of credit card statements that need to be made public too,” he said.
“The legislature should make a proactive move to make sure an accuarate dollar figure can be put on what can be paid back."