Three days after the BC Liberal government chose Craig James to fill-in as chief electoral officer in 2010, the Legislature’s law clerk made a court application on behalf of James, theBreaker.news has learned.
James was the Legislature’s clerk of committees when he became the acting head of Elections BC by cabinet order on June 4, 2010. James, who was named clerk of the house a year later, was suspended with pay, along with sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, last November because of an RCMP investigation into alleged misconduct. They both deny any wrongdoing and nobody has been charged.
Legislature law clerk Ian Izard filed a requisition to the B.C. Supreme Court registry in Victoria on June 7, 2010 for a grant of probate regarding the estate of James’s mother Eileen, who passed away at age 86 in March of that year. Izard also witnessed her Dec. 17, 1999-signed will, which named James as the executor, trustee and one of nine beneficiaries.
When contacted by theBreaker.news, Izard said “I’m not going to answer any questions” and hung up the phone. Neither of James’s lawyers, Mark Andrews and Gavin Cameron, responded to requests for comment.
Izard was called to the B.C. bar in 1974 and became the Legislature’s law clerk in 1977. He also offered legal services at the Clay and Company firm in Victoria. Izard was awarded a Queen’s Counsel designation by the government in 2003, but the news release does not mention any private practice work. Izard was paid $178,888 in 2010-2011, his last full fiscal year at the Legislature. In November 2015, Izard ceased practising as a lawyer and became a retired member of the Law Society. Izard is an honorary governor and former chair of the board of the Victoria Foundation.
Independent watchdog Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC called it “inappropriate” for Izard to have handled co-worker James’s personal legal matters. He said the outcome of the Legislature scandal needs to be “adequate separation of work-related activities and personal activities.”
“You would like to think, as well, that people appointed to these positions would know better, that even in the absence of guidelines they would clue-in,” Travis said. “Obviously they didn’t and this is going to be one of the tasks for the Legislative Assembly Management Committee to tackle.”
The Legislature operates separately from the Public Service Agency, the human resources office of government. The PSA does have a code of conduct that states a conflict of interest can happen when an employee uses his or her position, office, or government affiliation to pursue personal interests or the interests of another organization.
One of the four NDP members on the eight-member LAMC said Legislative officers should not be allowed to moonlight like Izard did.
“I would strongly advocate that all employees in positions like these be prohibited from other employment that might reasonably be inferred to be in conflict with their duties at the Legislature,” said Garry Begg, the Government Whip and Surrey-Guildford MLA. “I am not aware of what steps were/were not taken to ensure there was not a real or perceived conflict, but I am confident that matters such as this will be covered by the pending Workplace Review that is to be conducted.”
Izard received an $80,224 payout after his Jan. 15, 2012 retirement. That was only revealed in January of this year when LAMC released Speaker Darryl Plecas’s damning report about waste and corruption in the Legislature. Izard and three other officials were part of a $660,000 retirement payout scheme that saw James receive more than $257,000 in 2012. In February 2013, deputy clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd had a change of heart and returned her $119,000 payout.
James and Lenz were suspended with pay on Nov. 20 by the Legislature. An RCMP investigation, with two special prosecutors, was announced the same day. James and Lenz have pledged to assist the investigation and demanded their reinstatement.
Retired Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin is scheduled to report to LAMC by May 3 on whether James and Lenz used their positions for improper personal gain. She has the power to put witnesses under oath and order production of documents. LAMC will use McLachlin’s report to determine whether James and Lenz should be fired.
In early February, NDP house leader and LAMC member Mike Farnworth pledged to add the Legislature to the freedom of information law. The spring sitting of the Legislature is half over and the NDP government has not tabled the promised amendments.
How the dominos fell
In February 2010, Elections BC head Harry Neufeld approved a petition seeking a referendum on the Harmonized Sales Tax. Neufeld’s first term as head of Elections BC was to expire June 5, 2010, but, according to the Plecas Report, Speaker Bill Barisoff told him in April 2010 that he would not be reappointed for a second term. The May 6-struck, all-party committee to find Neufeld’s replacement met only once, on May 18 of that year. Instead of giving it time to advertise and interview applicants, the BC Liberal government appointed James.
James was still the acting head of Elections BC on June 2, 2011 when the BC Liberal government appointed him clerk of the house effective Sept. 1, 2011. The NDP opposition was furious because it was not consulted.
The Plecas Report said that James was the fourth-ranking clerk and that Izard would have been the natural choice to replace 50-year veteran clerk George MacMinn. Instead of retiring outright when James was promoted, MacMinn scored a two-year “clerk consultant” assignment for $500,000. Under pressure from the NDP, MacMinn later agreed to bequeath $500,000 to the Legislature Library through his will.
When contacted by theBreaker.news, MacMinn declined comment on the Legislature scandal, choosing to wait for McLachlin’s findings instead.
“I spent 50 years there and they were all non-controversial, cooperative and pleasant. That’s really the whole story of my life, I’m retired now and happily watching the world,” MacMinn said. “I’m not going to go near this thing in terms interjecting myself into the difficulties.”
In a 2012 report, Auditor General John Doyle concluded that the Legislature had done little to improve transparency and accountability since a 2007 audit.
“The Legislative Assembly Management Committee, the Speaker [Barisoff], and the Clerk [MacMinn] are not effectively operating as a governance and management oversight body to ensure that the Legislative Assembly’s resources are properly utilized and that its operations are well managed and in compliance with all relevant legislation and stakeholder expectations,” Doyle wrote.
Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.