After repeatedly claiming his innocence and demanding his job back, the sergeant-at-arms of the British Columbia Legislature has quit.
Gary Lenz was suspended with pay last November pending an RCMP investigation into corruption at the Legislature. In July, he became subject of a Police Act investigation conducted by former Vancouver Police Department deputy chief Doug LePard. That report has yet to be released, but is believed to be the impetus for Lenz’s sudden retirement 10 months after he and Clerk Craig James were escorted out of the Legislature on Nov. 20.
Lenz tendered his retirement Sept. 30, four-and-a-half months after James did the same.
Rather than wait to be fired by lawmakers, James negotiated his retirement on the eve of the release of a report by former Supreme Court of Canada chief justice Beverley McLachlin. McLachlin found James committed misconduct by spending taxpayers’ money on personal items.
In an Oct. 1 statement, Lenz said: “After considerable reflection, I have concluded that the damage that has been done to my reputation will never be fully repaired, and that if I continued as sergeant-at-arms, I would be doing a disservice to my office.”
On Nov. 26, six days after they were suspended, James and Lenz appeared with a lawyer from the Fasken law firm at a news conference organized by the Peak Communications public relations firm. They both said they were innocent, pledged to cooperate investigators and demanded their jobs back.
Said Lenz: “Although it is impossible to deny what you do not know, I firmly say that I have done nothing wrong and that I am confident that an independent investigation now underway with the RCMP will clear me of any alleged wrongdoing.”
On Feb. 7, in reply to Speaker Darryl Plecas’s bombshell January report on the duo, Lenz said: “I have done nothing wrong and I wish to return to work.”
“I have always championed the best ideals of our Legislative Assembly and I believe many of you know that I have always done everything within my ethical and legal ability to ensure that your expectations of my duties are fulfilled.”
McLachlin did not find Lenz committed misconduct, which prompted him to host reporters in his North Saanich backyard on May 16.
“I’ve done nothing wrong at any point and I’m looking so forward to be able to get this cleared up,” Lenz said. “There are policies in place, there are procedures in place with in the assembly, I followed those policies, I followed the procedures, and anything in my role and my mandate i fully fulfilled in all aspects of it… I’ve done nothing wrong or no misconduct.”
In July, theBreaker.news reported that Legislature security overtime costs ballooned by 244% under Lenz since 2014. Over five years, Legislative Assembly Protective Services dinged taxpayers $1.7 million for overtime.
The announcement of Lenz’s retirement came on the first anniversary of the unprecedented appointment of two special prosecutors, David Butcher and Brock Martland, after a complaint to the RCMP from Speaker Darryl Plecas about corruption at the Legislature. The RCMP investigation and special prosecutors were not made public until Nov. 20.
A source with knowledge of the investigation, but who is not authorized to speak publicly, said reports about the purchase of a wood splitter and large quantities of alcohol have been forwarded by the RCMP to Butcher for charge approval.
Lenz’s departure was also a week after Auditor General Carol Bellringer submitted her resignation, effective Dec. 31. Bellringer’s most-recent report on Sept. 19 was the heavily criticized review of the offices of the speaker, clerk and sergeant-at-arms. She did not find fraud or conduct a forensic audit.
Meanwhile, at $123,269, the retired-in-disgrace James received the most of the five Legislative Assembly senior staffers for the April to June quarter. Lenz was paid $61,889, including $53,437 salary and $1,067 vehicle allowance.
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