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No more charges in alleged misspending case involving B.C. legislature senior staff

No further charges will be approved in a case involving senior staff at the B.C. legislature that saw officials escorted from the building by police amid allegations of misspent taxpayer dollars.
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Former clerk of the B.C. legislature Craig James denies three counts of breach of trust by a public officer and two counts of fraud. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

No further charges will be approved in a case involving senior staff at the B.C. legislature that saw officials escorted from the building by police amid allegations of misspent taxpayer dollars.

Craig James, the former clerk, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of breach of trust by a public officer and two counts of fraud in excess of $5,000. He has elected to be tried by a judge alone. The case will be heard in Vancouver and is expected to begin on Jan. 24 and last five to six weeks.

Special prosecutors David Butcher and Brock Martland were appointed in November 2018 to provide legal advice to the RCMP during its investigation of the activities of senior legislature staff. They have declined to approve any further charges, the B.C. Prosecution Service said Tuesday. Their decision follows a final police report to Crown counsel.

“The special prosecutors concluded that the charge assessment standard was not met with respect to any charges beyond those that have already been approved,” the prosecution service said.

Last month, Justice Heather Holmes quashed a first count against James, which alleged that James used his position to advance his own personal interest over the public good.

The charges against James allege that he improperly obtained and kept a long-service award in the amount of $257,988.38, bought a wood splitter and trailer with public funds and used it for his own benefit, and made fraudulent travel-expense claims.

James and former sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz were suspended in November 2018 and escorted off the legislature grounds by Victoria police.

The following January, a report by then-Speaker Darryl Plecas alleged that James and Lenz, a former RCMP officer, spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on lavish trips, clothing and personal expenses, and that James bought the $3,000 wood splitter with public money and kept it at his home.

In May 2019, retired Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin released an ­independent report into the ­allegations of ­misconduct against the two senior ­legislature officers.

She cleared Lenz, but ­substantiated four of five ­allegations against James, ­finding that he used public money to buy expensive suits and ­luggage for personal use, removed alcohol from the legislature and made personal use of a wood-splitter bought with public funds.

McLachlin also found James engaged in wrongdoing by accepting a $257,988 payout from a retirement benefit in 2012, despite the fact he never retired.

James resigned in May 2019. Lenz retired in October 2019. The former RCMP detachment commander in Sidney had been appointed the legislature’s ­sergeant-at-arms in 2009.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

— with files from Louise Dickson

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