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HomeBusinessExclusive: Woodsplitter, trailer removed from Legislative precinct as RCMP corruption probe deepens

Exclusive: Woodsplitter, trailer removed from Legislative precinct as RCMP corruption probe deepens

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Bob Mackin

After a year and a half parked behind the Parliament Buildings, the infamous woodsplitter and trailer bought by disgraced ex-clerk Craig James were quietly taken away by the RCMP on April 16.

The infamous wood splitter, photographed on the Legislature grounds on Nov. 20, 2019. (Mackin)

A flatbed truck hauled away the most-famous evidence in the British Columbia Legislature scandal for safe-keeping.

“We got a request from the RCMP that they wanted custody of the woodsplitter and the trailer and obviously we complied with that request,” Alan Mullen, Chief of staff to Speaker Darryl Plecas, told theBreaker.news. “They moved very quickly and arrived at the Legislative precinct at 8 a.m. and loaded it onto a flatbed truck and took it to an undisclosed location.”

The woodsplitter inspired a Twitter account and parody song while parked in an alcove behind the former 19th century drill hall that now houses offices for the conflict of interest commissioner and the Legislature’s IT department.

James is under investigation by the RCMP for breach of trust after spending $13,230.51 of taxpayers’ money in 2018 to buy the P.J. D5102 Dump trailer and Wallenstein WX450-L log splitter that he originally kept at his house in Saanich. James had claimed that the equipment was to be used for supplying Legislature fireplaces with firewood in case of natural disaster.

James and ex-sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz were suspended with pay by unanimous vote on Nov. 20, 2018 and escorted out of the building by police. They claimed they were innocent and demanded their jobs back, but both eventually quit to prevent their certain firings.

Craig James (left) and Gary Lenz (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association)

The woodsplitter became the symbol of James’s excess in January 2019 when Plecas revealed the purchase in a bombshell report to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee. That report detailed some of the reasons why Plecas called the RCMP to investigate alleged corruption by James and Lenz.

Plecas’s report, compiled with Mullen, found flagrant overspending on luxurious trips overseas and charges to taxpayers for personal items, such as suits and luggage, in the tens of thousands of dollars. James and Lenz also pocketed pension and travel allowances in the six figures.

According to RCMP search warrant documents unsealed last November, witnesses interviewed indicated that James had insisted on picking the woodsplitter and trailer 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.

Officers from E Division attended James’s house in a Saanich subdivision at 9:50 a.m. on Dec. 7, 2018. A tow truck driver loaded the woodsplitter onto a flat bed truck and took it to a secure bay at Totem Towing. Police found evidence that it had been used.

The wood splitter trailer at Craig James’s house in Saanich in 2018 (Speaker’s Office)

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 negotiated his sudden retirement in mid-May of last year after Beverley McLachlin, the retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, found he had committed misconduct.

Lenz retired at the end of last September, before the release of a Police Act investigation by retired Vancouver Police deputy chief Doug LePard. LePard found that Lenz breached his oath as a special constable by lying to McLachlin.

Neither James nor Lenz have repaid taxpayers.

Deputy clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd was officially appointed as James’s successor on March 2.

An RCMP investigation with special prosecutors Brock Martland and David Butcher continues.

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