Legislative assembly

Trial for fraud in BC legislature and breach of trust set to begin next week

Former Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Craig James faces five counts of alleged abuse of power

The criminal fraud and breach of trust trial of former B.C. Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Craig James will begin on Monday, following a pre-trial conference that paved the way for access from the public amid the widespread wave of COVID-19 that has otherwise handcuffed the courts.

Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia Heather J. Holmes met on Tuesday with special Crown prosecutors Brock Martland, David Butcher and Elliot Holzman and defense attorneys for James Gavin Cameron and Kevin Westell to discuss logistics.

Holmes said she will know by tomorrow whether the proceedings will begin in person or via an online video conference.

The trial is expected to last six weeks and will hear testimony from prosecutors who believe James committed fraud and breach of trust during his tenure as leader of the BC legislature.

Special prosecutors approved unprecedented criminal charges against James for breach of trust by a public official (three counts) and fraud over $5,000 (two counts) on December 18, 2020, following of a police investigation into alleged personal expenses by senior executives. in the legislature.

Those expenses extended to the Legislature’s former top cop, Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, who was investigated but cleared of any wrongdoing.

The charges allege that James improperly obtained and retained a long service bonus in the amount of $257,988.38, purchased a log splitter and trailer with public funds and used it for his own benefit, and made fraudulent travel expense claims.

James and Lenz also allegedly took numerous expensive trips and purchased personal items at taxpayer expense, a January 2019 report described by House Speaker Darryl Plecas.

Police escorted the two top executives out of the legislature in November 2018. Butcher and Martland were appointed to avoid a conflict of interest in government.

James allegedly used his position to advance his public good interests between September 10, 2011 and November 21, 2018.

The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, as James was officially known, is responsible for the general management and administration of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.

His office (and the entire legislature) is not subject to freedom of information laws; Consequently, public and media scrutiny has been limited over the years. The alleged offenses took place under successive Liberal governments in British Columbia. While the BC NDP has pledged to expand access to government information and improve FOI transparency, it has instead opted to apply a $10 application fee for each request.

James pleaded not guilty to all five counts and elected a judge, not a jury, to conduct the trial.

Although Lenz does not face possible criminal penalties, a 2019 independent report found that he committed “very serious misconduct” by providing “false oral and written statements” to Judge Beverley McLachlin, who found cleared Lenz of Plecas’ allegations of administrative misconduct.

Some inappropriate conduct has even extended to the position of President itself. Prior to 2017, now-retired Liberal MP Linda Reid held the position. However, she was forced to repay money to the legislature after asking taxpayers to fund her husband’s trip to South Africa for a trip to the legislature. Reid declined to answer her questions directly, opting instead to use her attorney.

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