A photo in the new report by the Speaker of the B.C. Legislature shows the now-infamous wood splitter and trailer sitting on a paved pad at the home of the suspended clerk.
And Speaker Darryl Plecas uses it to sow doubts about Clerk Craig James’s explanation that he was just holding on to the wood splitter and trailer – which cost taxpayers $13,000 – while storage for it was built at the legislature.
“Mr. James writes that he was frustrated storing the trailer at his property and arranged to have it stored in an RV facility,” reads Plecas's report.
“I note, however, that in front of Mr. James’s house is a recently constructed paved pad on which he had been storing the Legislature’s trailer until he apparently returned it."
The wood splitter became a symbol of what Plecas is alleging is a widespread culture of entitlement in the legislature, with the two top legislature officials alleged to be living large on the public dime.
James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz have denied any wrongdoing, and have not been charged with any crime. The RCMP is investigating the matter, guided by two special prosecutors.
The photo in Plecas’s new report appears to have been taken by his chief of staff, Alan Mullen, in October 2018, about a year after the wood splitter was purchased. The report says it showed signs of use at that point.
The report also shows a companion photo taken from Google Maps a few years before that shows no concrete pad in that location.
James has denied that he took a wood splitter and a trailer belonging to the assembly to his house for personal use.
“I was storing them while storage space at the Legislature, including a concrete pad and a path for the trailer, was being constructed. This was supposed to be a short term proposition but it dragged on. All of this was done in the open and known to many people,” James wrote in a response earlier this month.
James said he picked up the trailer to save the legislature the delivery fee, and stored them for a period while the space was being prepared. “I was told that a concrete pad and path for the trailer would take a couple of months to construct.”
Lenz says he had no part in any use of the wood splitter.
“At no time have I ever used, or even seen the wood splitter or trailer that was purchased by the BC Legislature. Until November 21, 2018, following my removal from the legislature, I have never been to the Clerk’s residence,” Lenz wrote.
Lenz said the wood splitter was purchased as part of an “emergency preparedness and business continuity program that the Legislative Assembly has been developing,” including satellite communications equipment, generators, tools, lighting, tables, and various supplies.
“My recollection is that the wood splitter was for the purpose to provide firewood for heat and light in the event of a disaster; and the trailer was to be available for whatever utility purposes were required, including potentially hauling wood,” he said.
“Many people will descend upon the legislative assembly in the event of a disaster. Having the means to keep people warm until emergency services has facilities up and running was considered part of prudent emergency planning,” he said.