The B.C. Legislative Precinct occupies almost 12.5 acres of downtown Victoria, but the Clerk never settled on a place to park a $13,000 wood splitter and trailer purchased in the fall of 2017.
Instead, Craig James parked the equipment 13 kilometres north, outside his Cordova Bay house. That rendered it “utterly useless” according to one of the Special Prosecutors in the B.C. Supreme Court fraud and breach of trust trial against James.
Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes heard Feb. 2 from the former facilities manager, Randy Spraggett, who said it was his idea to buy the equipment in the wake of TV coverage of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Spraggett said a sea container was outfitted as a mobile command post in case of a major storm knocking out power and fuel supplies or even an earthquake-causing collapse of the buildings.
“When I started thinking about the fact that here we are, we’re kind of late 50s, 60s, maybe older, trying to do cutting up wood, trying to split the wood in order to use it for burn barrels, that it makes logical sense to use a mechanical device which would save us the physical work,” Spraggett testified.
He said Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz came up with the idea to buy the Wallenstein-brand wood splitter. Spraggett sourced the product online and used his assembly-issued credit card. He testified that James offered to pick up the equipment because he was heading over to the Lower Mainland and had a truck with a trailer hitch.
The dilemma was where to store the wood splitter and trailer combo. Parking spots near the so-called Premier’s garage were being repurposed for electric vehicle charging. A spot behind the Armoury building was discussed. Spraggett even suggested a gravel pad be created on which to park the trailer. But he never got approval.
Special Prosecutor David Butcher asked who had the authority to say “it’s going to be here, period”?
“That would be Mr. James,” Spraggett replied. “He would have had that authority at any time.”
The trailer and wood splitter were delivered to James’s house, while Spraggett said he took the initiative to “basically say, you know, we’re gonna put it on the ground guys.”
The equipment stayed outside James’s house.
Defence lawyer Gavin Cameron asked Spraggett: “You also remember, Mr. James telling you during this conversation that his wife was quite unhappy that they’re seeing an unsightly trailer sitting in front of their house. And so he was paying to store it out of his own pocket somewhere else?
Spraggett said “I don’t remember that conversation.”
The trailer was finally parked on the grounds Oct. 22, 2018, almost a month before James and Lenz were suspended by MLAs and escorted off the property. RCMP officers attended James’s house on Dec. 7, 2018 and a tow truck driver loaded the wood splitter onto a flat bed truck and took it to a secure bay at Totem Towing. Police found evidence that it had been used.
The trial is expected to last another five weeks and hear another 20 witnesses.
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