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HomeBusinessMysterious document delays Legislature corruption trial

Mysterious document delays Legislature corruption trial

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Bob Mackin

For the second time in six weeks, the special prosecutors in the fraud and breach of trust case against former B.C. Legislature clerk Craig James have surprised the court.

Special prosecutor David Butcher (Mackin)

In a Jan. 6 case management conference, Brock Martland told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that 11 boxes of evidence were found in the Parliament Buildings before Christmas. Three weeks later, on Jan. 27, David Butcher revealed that executive financial officer Hillary Woodward told him the night before that she found two more documents.

“One of the documents would be exculpatory in nature,” Butcher said. “It is copied to Ms. Ryan Lloyd.”

“Exculpatory” means it could prove guilt or innocence. “Ms. Ryan-Lloyd” is Kate Ryan-Lloyd, the first witness in the six-week trial and James’s successor as the Legislative Assembly’s chief executive. 

James’s lead lawyer objected to admission of the new document and called it “grossly unfair.” 

“I’m shadow-boxing right now,” Gavin Cameron told Holmes. “I’m concerned with where I think we’re going, but I don’t know where we’re going.”

Butcher gave no hints about the contents of the document. Holmes called a time out for the defense and prosecution to confer. Butcher successfully asked for adjournment until 2 p.m. so that a police officer could conduct a taped interview of Ryan-Lloyd about the documents. 

B.C. Legislature beancounter Hillary Woodward (BC Leg)

When the trial resumed for the afternoon, Butcher said “we are on our way to solving the problem.” Ryan-Lloyd had been interviewed for 49 minutes but neither side had finished reviewing the recording. Butcher said he would carry on asking Ryan-Lloyd questions about working under James, without touching on the newly discovered documents. 

The six-week trial opened Jan. 24, when James pleaded not guilty to all five charges. One of the charges is about his $13,230.51 purchase of a Wallenstein WX450-L wood splitter and P.J. D5102 dump trailer with taxpayers’ money. He kept the equipment at his house in the Cordova Bay area of Saanich, rather than in the Legislative precinct, more than 13 kilometres away. 

Ryan-Lloyd revealed in court that she is pondering what to do with the combo, which became symbols of the scandal that was revealed by then-Speaker Darryl Plecas in a scathing January 2019 report about corruption under James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz.

Speaker Darryl Plecas (left), interim clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd and the black binder of evidence in January 2019 (Mackin)

“I have been in discussions to Speaker [Raj] Chouhan to ensure that, although public funds had been used to purchase equipment, that we would be able to find an appropriate way to dispose of the equipment,” she said. “There is no need, in my view, to retain these items of equipment.”

Ryan-Lloyd told the court she knew the combo had been purchased as part of spending on emergency preparedness in fall 2017. In the spring of 2018, she said, Plecas mentioned to her that the Legislature had these items, but instead of being on-site, they were stored at James’s house.

Ryan-Lloyd said there was no policy that allowed the off-site storage of equipment. 

“It did not make any sense to me at all,” she said. 

Both items were licensed and insured, but the trailer hitch was not compatible with work trucks at the Legislature precinct. 

“So there were many questions that surfaced in the fullness of time, but clearly, in October of 2017, I needed to ask more questions,” Ryan-Lloyd conceded.

The trial continues. 

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