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HomeBusinessA tale of two reports at B.C.’s Legislative Assembly Management Committee, as RCMP continues to investigate James and Lenz

A tale of two reports at B.C.’s Legislative Assembly Management Committee, as RCMP continues to investigate James and Lenz

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Bob Mackin

The all-party committee that manages British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly met July 2 and wasted no time to release one report budgeted for $100,000.

But it did not discuss the one that cost only $13,000 and recommended saving $1 million.

The latter report was finished almost seven months ago by Speaker Darryl Plecas’s chief of staff Alan Mullen, who toured assemblies on both sides of the border last summer. Mullen found B.C.’s $226,000-a-year sergeant-at-arms is overpaid and the Parliament Buildings’ police force should become a lower-cost security department.

Legislative Assembly Protective Services badges (Leg.BC.ca)

Legislative Assembly Protective Services cost $5 million in 2018-2019 to police the 12-acre precinct and charged $1.8 in overtime from 2013 to 2018. Meanwhile, it cost taxpayers in suburban Oak Bay $4.7 million for its full service municipal police department.

Inexplicably, the Legislative Assembly Management Committee kept Mullen’s January report secret and the house leaders of the three parties did not respond when theBreaker.news asked why. It took a leak for it to finally become public on June 22, the day the Legislature reconvened after a three-month pandemic hiatus.

During its 45-minute open session on July 2, LAMC only discussed the ADR Education workplace review. The workplace review stemmed from Plecas’s bombshell January 2019 report about corruption by the clerk and sergeant-at-arms.

LAMC hired ADR last fall. Its 27-page report, based on more than 150 interviews by a five-member team, described Legislature staff working in a “climate of fear.” Workers were afraid to speak out for fear of being fired, before what ADR called “the events of November 2018.”

That was when Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were suspended by unanimous vote of MLAs and escorted from the building because of an RCMP corruption investigation.

“Perceptions of unfair employment practices were expressed, specifically that people could be summarily dismissed seemingly without cause,” the ADR report said. “Both current and former employees described situations where they perceived that decision-making was undertaken with little or no rationale, thereby creating uncertainty, suspicion and reducing trust.”

Anonymized comments included:

  • “Back in the day we were all just following orders, we couldn’t stick our heads up. People would get fired.”
  • “It felt like you couldn’t ask questions. Things were decided and you just kept your head down and did what you were told.”
  • “Abuse of authority at the top creates a climate of fear.”

ADR said conditions are improving since the Plecas report, but there continues to be a hangover effect, which causes some workers to “remain suspicious and a little fearful.”

Craig James (standing left) and Gary Lenz (back to camera) minutes before their suspension was announced in the B.C. Legislature (Hansard TV)

“Many were left feeling as if they were unfairly, ‘tarred with the same brush’ and that public perception shifted dramatically, making them feel somewhat ashamed to be affiliated with the organization. Moreover, people reported that they were shocked and dismayed at what was being revealed and as a result, lost confidence in the Legislative Assembly as a whole. The resulting investigations and reports have left some people feeling that confidentiality was breached and that they are being unfairly penalized for the actions of a few. All of this was compounded by a feeling of being ‘rudderless’ without a permanent Clerk and Sergeant at Arms in place.”

The report, however, does not explain that when James and Lenz were suspended Nov. 20, 2018, several veterans in the Press Gallery focused on the whistleblowers instead of the subjects of the police investigation. Several commentators sympathetic to James and Lenz sided with the opposition BC Liberals and suggested Plecas and Mullen be replaced.

James and Lenz held a news conference six days after they were suspended. They proclaimed their innocence and demanded their jobs back. However, in May 2019, James retired in disgrace after retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin found he committed misconduct. At the end of September 2019, Lenz did the same, when former Deputy Vancouver Police Chief Doug LePard found he violated the Police Act for lying to McLachlan and failing to investigate James.

The RCMP investigation is ongoing.

Retired-in-disgrace Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz (BC Leg)

The ADR report did not focus on the Speaker’s office, but instead the office of the clerk, now occupied by James’s former deputy Kate Ryan-Lloyd.

ADR concluded “too much power and management oversight [is] concentrated in the Clerk’s office.”

“The impact of the perception that, ‘all lanes lead to the Clerk’s Office’ creates a perceived decision-making ‘bottle-neck’ that contributes to delays, inefficiencies and can have a disempowering impact when people feel they are not trusted to exercise their authority and leadership. Many people expressed a concern that the disempowering effect was leading to lethargy and disengagement.”

The five reviewers also concluded the Legislative Assembly is a resilient workplace in transition, still recovering from “the events of 2018.” But there is growing confidence it is moving in the right direction.

“Trust is being re-established incrementally and most staff expressed being engaged, committed, and hopeful about the future of their workplace and its evolving culture.”

ADR recommended the Legislative Assembly should create an internal communications strategy, publish a virtual handbook of workplace policies and procedures, institute a performance appraisal system for all employees, expand professional development training, conduct a team building, leadership retreat for senior management and conduct a followup review in nine-to-12 months.

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