Former Speaker issues final report, raises concerns about #MeToo allegations at B.C. legislature
VICTORIA -- Former Speaker Darryl Plecas has issued a final report into alleged wrongdoing at the B.C. legislature, including a new claim that sexual misconduct allegations were never acted on by an all-party committee.
In the 50-page report, titled "Unfinished Business," Plecas looks back at the spending scandal he brought to light two years ago, highlights weak financial controls at the legislature, and lists action taken during his time as Speaker. Scroll down or tap here to read through the report.
That includes delivering a short memo on Feb. 4, 2019, to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC) to raise an allegation that involved #MeToo-type concerns.
“As far as I am aware, neither the allegations, nor my memorandum, have been investigated or acted upon to date," his report reads.
Plecas doesn’t say who the allegations are against, when they happened, or who raised the concern. He does specify they involved a former legislature employee who alleged "they had been the victim of the kind of behaviour by their manager which had recently been spotlighted by the '#MeToo' movement."
He also writes it was a credible concern that was corroborated by witnesses.
"The person who was involved swore an affidavit to a lawyer," Plecas told CTV News in an interview.
Mike Farnworth, who serves as the government house leader and is also a member of LAMC, rejected the notion that nothing was done.
"We would take any allegation extremely seriously, and this idea that LAMC ignored, I just don't accept that and I think you'd find the other members of the committee feel the exact same way."
Plecas’ tenure as Speaker was controversial from the start as he broke with the BC Liberal Party to fill the role as an independent. By doing so, he gave the NDP minority government the edge it needed to stay in power. In his report, he accuses the Liberals of a smear campaign against him as he and his chief of staff highlighted what they saw as problems in the legislature.
It started with the spending allegations raised in late 2018, which resulted in two top officials, sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and clerk Craig James, being placed on administrative leave. Both later retired as reports raised concerns about how the pair spent taxpayer dollars, and of lax controls in place.
The report notes that James, when departing as clerk, entered into a “non-financial settlement” that included a “mutual non-disparagement clause.” He added that James didn’t have to pay back any benefits received through what Justice Beverly McLachlin called misconduct.
“I found the decision staggering,” Plecas' report reads. “I have no idea what leverage Mr. James could have possibly had to compel a 'settlement,' or indeed, what notional claim he might have been 'settling,' against the legislature.”
Plecas also adds he is concerned by the secrecy and lack of transparency at the legislature.
One passage reads: "People have often said to me that this Legislative Assembly is run like the Vatican, with the concentration of power into the Clerk’s office, the lack of oversight and disclosure of his spending, the lack of modern protections for employment, the inapplicability of freedom of information legislation, and the institution not being subject to review by the Ombudsperson."
He said his goal wasn’t to get rid of bad apples but to look at reforms. He urges the new Legislative Assembly to continue the work he started to bring more transparency and "clean up the B.C. legislature."
Plecas also notes he was heartened by those who came forward and urged LAMC to come up with protections for whistleblowers, and by support from the public.
His reminder to politicians and legislative staff: British Columbians are "the boss."
Following the release of the report, Green leader and member of LAMC Sonia Furstenau told CTV News in a written statement that the committee "brought in a Respectful Workplace Policy and we now have a process for people to bring forward any complaints or issues and have them addressed through the Respectful Workplace Office.
"This is a significant step toward ensuring that all people who work in the Legislative Assembly have a clear expectation of a safe workplace, and an avenue for a having issues addressed."
Read through the full report below. Tap here if you're not able to see the embedded document, or want to view a larger version.