The B.C. Legislature’s suspended sergeant-at-arms lied to retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin before she cleared him of misconduct in May, according to a Police Act investigation.
But Gary Lenz quit his job on Sept. 30 to pre-empt his likely firing.
“Lenz’s untruthful oral statements and written submissions to Justice McLachlin regarding the 2013 liquor incident – including with respect to his conversations with Speaker [Darryl] Plecas and [chief of staff Alan] Mullen in 2018 – constitute an egregious breach of public trust,” Doug LePard, the former deputy chief of the Vancouver Police Department, wrote in a scathing, 112-page report that was released late Oct. 8 by the Legislative Assembly Management Committee.
In the Sept. 9 report, LePard found that Lenz did not uphold his oath as a special provincial constable to investigate Clerk Craig James’s April 2013 removal of liquor from the Legislature for delivery to retiring Speaker Bill Barisoff. Plecas’s January report to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee said that Lenz told him in late May 2018 that James had ordered three legislative employees to load $10,000 worth of booze bought by the Legislative Assembly into James’s pickup truck. In a February follow-up, Plecas reported that James received only $370 for making the delivery.
LePard decided that Lenz committed discreditable conduct and deceit, worthy of the “most serious end of the range of misconduct” for discipline under the Police Act. LePard noted it was not part of his mandate to mete out punishment. In fairness to Lenz, he recommended that Plecas, both his supervisor and a key witness, obtain independent advice before acting. That was a moot point, because Lenz quit before the report’s release.
James and Lenz were both suspended with pay and escorted from the Parliament Buildings last Nov. 20 by unanimous vote of the Legislature because of an RCMP investigation prompted by a corruption complaint from Plecas. At a Nov. 26 news conference in their Vancouver lawyers’ office, James and Lenz both said they did no wrong and they demanded their jobs back.
McLachlin was hired last March to investigate Plecas’s allegations against the duo and decide whether James and Lenz broke Legislature rules, practices or policies. Her report said James committed misconduct in four of five categories. He negotiated his retirement on the eve of the report’s May release without having to repay the Legislature for suits and luggage and a retirement allowance he gave himself.
McLachlin’s report cleared Lenz of misconduct. But, as LePard pointed out, she was working under time constraints, did not have access to all the evidence and Lenz lied to her.
“Investigators need to be able to rely on witnesses to be truthful, and this is particularly true of a peace officer who swore an oath to ‘faithfully, honestly and impartially perform [his] duties as a Special Provincial Constable’,” LePard wrote about Lenz.
Plecas, as Lenz’s supervisor, appointed LePard in June after a complaint by Mullen under the Special Provincial Constable Complaint Procedure Regulation. LePard interviewed 14 witnesses under the Police Act to investigate the two-pronged complaint.
On the other complaint, LePard said there was insufficient evidence to find Lenz involved in the 2019 disappearance of a memory stick that contained statements about the 2013 incident. LePard also concluded there was no evidence to suggest McLachlin’s investigation was compromised by the missing memory stick.
LePard vs. Lenz
In the report, LePard wrote that Plecas and Mullen alleged that Lenz, “knowing that [Plecas] had serious concerns about Mr. James, told them on several occasions beginning in April or May 2018, in very strong terms, that Mr. James had stolen the liquor in 2013. They further alleged that SAA Lenz encouraged the Speaker to take this information to the Premier to use to force Mr. James to resign.”
Cell phone logs showed a flurry of 43 calls by Lenz to Plecas or Mullen between June 4 and July 31 of 2018, the period between Lenz reporting the liquor incident and a meeting that Plecas had at the Premier’s office with John Horgan’s chief of staff, Geoff Meggs. Plecas and Mullen alleged that
There was another flurry of 29 calls between Sept. 28 and Oct. 11.
LePard said Lenz testified that he was calling on other topics, such as an issue with stained glass windows, and that he might’ve been “playing phone tag eight or 10 times a day.”
When LePard interviewed Lenz on Sept. 5 in the presence of Lenz’s lawyer, Robert Cooper, Lenz denied that he had ever said to Plecas or Mullen that they could use the 2013 liquor incident as leverage to trigger James’s retirement. Lenz told him that if Plecas had concerns about James, Barisoff and the movement of alcohol, it was Plecas’s duty to move forward with it.
Quoting from the transcript of his interview with Lenz, LePard ultimately cornered Lenz on the lack of investigation into James.
Said LePard: “I don’t accept that you had to have reasonable grounds to believe that a theft had occurred to go talk to your close colleague and say, I just want to confirm that you took that back to the liquor distribution branch.”
Lenz replied: “I made a decision, and that decision was not to talk to Craig James. I looked at it from the point that everything I saw was…And we’ve got the — and my staff at the other end here, yes, they are upset and things, and I looked at it from the point of saying, we need to deal with the controls [create a new policy] rather than go down this road. That was my decision.”
In arriving at his decision, LePard said he found significant evidence from Acting Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd, that supported Plecas and Mullen.
“It strongly and credibly rebuts Lenz’s evidence to Justice McLachlin during which he claimed that he assumed Mr. James was returning the liquor for a refund, and that he never believed anything wrong had occurred,” LePard wrote. “Ms. Ryan-Lloyd’s evidence also corroborates Speaker Plecas and Mr. Mullen where they recall Lenz describing the liquor incident as a ‘theft.’ Lenz denied this to Justice McLachlin.”
LePard concluded that Lenz did not conduct an adequate investigation into the April 2013 removal of liquor by James from the Legislative Precinct and that he did not tell the truth to McLachlin or him, both contrary to his policing oath.
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.”
The announcement of Lenz’s retirement came on the first anniversary of the unprecedented appointment of two special prosecutors on the case, David Butcher and Brock Martland. 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 the liquor delivery have been forwarded by the RCMP to Butcher for charge approval.
Lenz’s resignation from a job that he said wanted back came 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 the anticipated forensic audit.
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