B.C. Legislature Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd testified in B.C. Supreme Court Jan. 28 that she felt “uncomfortable” in early 2013, so she returned money received in 2012 under a discontinued retirement scheme.
Her predecessor, Craig James, has pleaded not guilty to all five charges for which he is being tried. One of the charges is breach of public trust for improperly obtaining and keeping $257,988 under a program intended for the three 1984-employed senior clerks employed when they eventually vacated their jobs.
James had been hired in 1987 as clerk of committees, two months before the executive benefit plan ended. The BC Liberal caucus appointed James the new clerk in June 2011. By early 2012, Speaker Bill Barisoff triggered the payments when he signed a memo for James that also provided $202,385.41 to clerk assistant Robert Vaive and $80,224.17 to law clerk Ian Izard.
Ryan-Lloyd, the deputy clerk in 2012, was allotted $118,915.84 under the so-called long-service award program.
“I was very concerned about the size of the payout and very uncomfortable with it,” Ryan-Lloyd said before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes. “Indeed, I had heard as well that Mr. Vaive, who was also in receipt of the allowance, should not have received it, but it was provided to him on compassionate grounds. I could not see a logical extension of eligibility or liability to Mr. James or myself.”
Ryan-Lloyd said the scathing July 2012 auditor general’s report into legislature finances influenced her about-face. (Her husband Ken is a longtime employee of the office, and is currently the manager of compliance, controls and research).
By early 2013, she returned the $83,235 she had received for personal reasons, according to a formal letter addressed to James.
“Did you have a discussion with Mr. James before this letter was sent to him?” Special Prosecutor David Butcher asked.
“I did,” Ryan-Lloyd said.
Butcher: “What was his response when you told him that you were going to return the money?”
“Mr. James, I think he thought I was going to think about it a bit more,” Ryan-Lloyd said. “I did confirm to him that I had made a decision. I recall that he said ‘well, you can do what you want, but I’m keeping mine’.”
Ryan-Lloyd said she believed there had been a thorough process to approve the payments, including legal advice to determine eligibility.
“I concluded by 2013, that my understanding was not correct.”
“I thought very much that my colleagues throughout the assembly work very hard in the service of the house,” she said. “And it was not right to hold on to these funds… I could not see rationale for holding them.”
The trial is expected to last five more weeks and hear from 26 more witnesses.
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