Almost three weeks after Craig James was suspended with pay, RCMP officers seized a wood splitter bought with public funds from his Saanich house, according to documents released by a Provincial Court judge on Nov. 22.
The information to obtain a production order, sworn by RCMP Const. Rafida Yonadim, offers a glimpse into the investigation into the purchase by the disgraced former clerk of the B.C. Legislature of the wood splitter and its trailer that he kept at his house for a year.
James’s oddball purchase was revealed in Speaker Darryl Plecas’s report to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee last January, which explained some of the reasons why Plecas called the RCMP to investigate corruption at the Legislature.
Yonadim’s documents said there were reasonable grounds to believe that James, between Nov. 17, 2017 and Dec. 7, 2018, committed breach of trust to obtain a benefit from the purchase of a trailer and wood splitter paid with public funds, for a purpose other than public good, contrary to section 122 of the Criminal Code.
James retired in May on the eve of a report by former Supreme Court of Canada chief justice Beverley McLachlin that found he had committed misconduct. Neither James nor Gary Lenz, the retired sergeant-at-arms, have been charged. James and Lenz were both suspended with pay and escorted out of the Parliament Buildings on Nov. 20, 2018.
Lenz retired in October, the week before a report was published that said he had breached the Police Act for lying to McLachlin, who had cleared him of wrongdoing in May. In a news conference on Nov. 26, 2018, they both said they did no wrong and they demanded to return to work.
The heavily redacted documents were released after an October-heard application to unseal the file by Postmedia in Surrey Provincial Court.
Yonadim, an officer from the Federal Serious and Organized Crime’s Financial Integrity office, wrote that officers from E Division attended James’s house at 9:50 a.m. on Dec. 7 last year. 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 trailer had been returned earlier to the Legislative precinct. The documents say that a black trailer was found parked beside sea containers on the Legislature grounds on Oct. 22, 2018. One of the witnesses interviewed said that “James suddenly returned the trailer because ‘we were pestering the Clerk to… you know… park it back on the ground’.”
James had purchased the P.J. D5102 Dump trailer and Wallenstein WX450-L log splitter for a total $13,230.51 in fall 2017. Witnesses interviewed indicated that James had insisted on picking them up himself, with his white 2017 GMC Sierra Crew Cab truck. The trailer could have been delivered to Vancouver Island, but witnesses said James insisted on using his own pickup truck to retrieve it from the Lower Mainland, instead of one owned by the Legislature, because it supposedly had the correct hitch.
“I believe, for James, as clerk of the house, to pick up the trailer and wood splitter, or any equipment on behalf of facilities services, is outside the scope of his duties,” Yonadim wrote.
A $65,000 business continuity business plan from Oct. 25, 2017 had contemplated the purchase of equipment in case of a natural disaster, but there was evidence that James did not follow the proper procedures to approve the purchase.
“None of the witnesses police interviewed had seen the trailer prior to the beginning of this investigation,” Yonadim wrote. “I believe that given the totality of all the information learned, James picked up the trailer on his own accord, drove it to his property, kept it there and used it, until he discovered there was an investigation into the whereabouts of the trailer at which point he arranged to bring it back. None of the witnesses police interviewed ever saw a wood splitter on Legislature property after it had been purchased.”
A source with knowledge of the investigation, but not authority to speak publicly, said the wood splitter and trailer are the subject of one of the first reports sent to special prosecutors for their approval to lay charges.
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