Wood splitter, luggage and mustard: 10 surprising expense claims from Speaker's report
Published Tuesday, January 22, 2019 2:48PM PST
The Speaker of B.C.'s legislature issued a bombshell report Monday accusing Clerk of the Legislature Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz of "flagrant overspending."
And while none of Darryl Plecas's allegations have been proven, the document provides detailed lists of expenses allegedly claimed by the suspended officials that the Speaker deemed "unusual" or "personal in nature."
Here's a look at the some of the most bizarre and shocking allegations featured in the report.
Wood splitter and trailer
The Speaker's report claims he received information that more than $13,000 in wood-splitting tools and a trailer "were delivered directly to Mr. James’s personal residence where they have allegedly been used by Mr. James and Mr. Lenz for their own purposes.
"From the Speaker’s inquiries, he understands the justification for the Legislative Assembly purchasing the wood-splitter was that if a crisis situation befell the Legislative Assembly and if in the course of that crisis a tree fell on the Legislature grounds, there could be a need to split the tree up for firewood for use at the Legislature," the report read.
"The Speaker has difficulty accepting that rationale, as the scenario seems very remote, and in any event – even assuming external Emergency Services were not able to attend and handle this scenario – a chainsaw and axe would appear to suffice."
'Uniform' bought in the U.K.
Plecas alleges that a navy-coloured suit from Ede & Ravenscroft worth $1,157.26 was expensed to the legislature during a December 2017 trip to the U.K.
"While there, Mr. Lenz quipped to me that it was all 'part of the uniform,' which I suspected was an implication that they intended to expense all of the items to the Legislative Assembly," the Speaker wrote, alleging that he was later able to confirm the item was claimed as a business expense.
The report alleges a similar incident took place during another trip to the U.K. in August 2018, during which James allegedly claimed a charcoal suit and several other items worth a total of $1,327.29 as business expenses.
Lenz, the report alleges, charged for two stud sets, a pair of cufflinks and a Marcella wing shirt worth a total of $666.11 during that trip.
In another section, the report alleges James was reimbursed $996.84 for purchases from Brooks Brothers in 2018.
Mustard, stamps and other gift shop purchases
The report also alleges "Mr. James claimed reimbursement for a number of gift shop purchases which are difficult to reconcile with a legitimate business purpose."
These include an $82 for stamps as well as $480 worth of diaries, notebooks, chocolate bars, notepads, mustard and watches. Gift shop purchases made between Aug. 2 and Aug. 11 in the U.K. allegedly came to a total of $1,360, according to the report.
Lenz allegedly claimed $16.75 for a book called "The Winter King," the document said.
Luggage bought on international trips
Plecas's report also lists examples of alleged "reimbursement claims submitted by Mr. James for luggage purchased on international trips."
These include a $253.61 worth of bags purchased in Edinburgh in Dec. 2017 and $1,138.34 claimed for a Victorinox luggage set bought in Hong Kong last June.
Along with a $743 purchase made in London that did not come with a description, these alleged claims amounted to $2,135.87.
Plecas's report alleges James claimed $5,000 in digital subscriptions to publications such as Bicycling magazine, History Today, Palm Springs Life magazine, Wired, and a monthly Apple Music plan between April 2017 and December 2018.
"In one month alone, Mr. James claimed $720.47 in digital subscriptions," the report alleges. "Additionally, in October and November 2017, Mr. James claimed $236.11 and $278.54 through the Clerk’s Office for a monthly subscription for Spot Satellite Messenger, a tracking device that uses the Globalstar satellite network to provide text messaging and GPS tracking."
Camera gear, headphones and tech services
"In December 2017, Mr. James was reimbursed for $658.45 for a waterproof camera," Plecas's report reads, adding that the clerk allegedly claimed more than $1,300 for memory cards and a tripod from the same store during 2018.
In 2017, the audit alleges, James was reimbursed $504.44 for Bose noise-cancelling headphones and another $785.85 for three claims for the Dial a Geek computer support service.
Plecas claims he received several first-hand accounts of James's "particular interest in Apple products," which included the simultaneous use of multiple iPhones.
"In the period April 2017 to July 2018, Mr. James was reimbursed over $5,000 for various computer-related items (mostly Apple products)," the report alleges. "These included computer adapters, cables, keyboards, mouses, external hard drives, iPhone cases, iPad cases, a USB drive, power adapters, Apple TV, an Apple pencil, a base stand for iPad pro, a HDMI Cable, and others."
Dozens of bottles of wine
In a section that lists expenses that are "concerning given their size and/or questionable appropriateness," the report alleges the clerk's office claimed $1,630 for 48 bottles of wine and one branded two-bottle box from the Painted Rock Estate Winery in Penticton on Nov. 9, 2017.
Two other two-bottle boxes, the document claims, were purchased on Nov. 29 of that year worth $226.81.
Whale-watching tours and ferry services
In August 2017 the clerk's office hosted a "Legislative Assemblies Business Continuity Network" conference in Bellevue, Washington.
Plecas's report points out that some of the expenses claimed were "surprisingly large," including nearly $900 allegedly spent on a whale watching tour in Victoria on Aug. 13.
The report alleges $1,420.29 was charged to the legislature for nine tickets on the "Clipper" ferry service between Victoria and Seattle on Aug. 15.
Tickets to baseball games
A day later, the document alleges, more than $1,300 were expensed for 13 tickets to a Seattle Mariners game on Aug. 16.
During that day and the next, a total of around $6,500 was also claimed for meals at various Seattle restaurants and "transportation from the Westin Hotel to the Washington Capitol Building and then to Safeco Field, apparently for a stadium tour, and finally back to the West Hotel," the report alleges.
The full report follows. Viewing this on our mobile beta site? Tap here for a compatible version.