Case against former legislature clerk Craig James adjourned until mid-February

The fraud and breach of trust case against the former clerk of the B.C. legislature has been adjourned for three weeks.

On Wednesday, Craig James’s lawyer Kevin Westell told the court he had received “voluminous disclosure” on Jan. 12 that he has not had the opportunity to review.

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James, whose case will return to court Feb. 17, is ­facing four counts of breach of trust by a public officer and two counts of fraud in excess of $5,000. The charges, sworn in Vancouver in December by an agent of the B.C. Attorney ­General, were approved by special prosecutors who were assigned to the case during an RCMP investigation into senior staff at the legislature.

The former clerk is alleged to have used his position to advance his own personal interests over the public good between Sept. 10, 2011, and Nov. 21, 2018.

The charges allege that James 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 sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz were suspended from their high-ranking ­positions in November 2018 and escorted off the legislature grounds by Victoria police.

The following January, then-Speaker Darryl Plecas released a report alleging 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 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.

Neither James nor Lenz are eligible for indemnification from the Legislative Assembly.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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