One of the fascinating sidelights in the mystery of the abruptly suspended legislature officials is the sudden emergence of someone no one had ever heard of before.
Meet Alan Mullen. He’s an affable, well-spoken former prison official who came out of nowhere this week after spending almost a year as a behind-the-scenes “special adviser” to Speaker Darryl Plecas.
He’s taken a few turns before the cameras in the last 48 hours and gets more interesting every time he opens his mouth.
Turns out he’s a friend of Plecas and worked with him for a time in a Fraser Valley correctional facility. Plecas was a criminologist professor who acted as an adjudicator in the correctional system and Mullen worked in the same realm with him.
Plecas later became a B.C. Liberal MLA, but was enticed by the NDP to bolt the caucus in 2017 to snatch the Speakership. The crucial change in the seat count gave the NDP more leeway to operate as the government, with Green support.
A few months after settling into the Speaker’s chair (July 2017) and surveying his new responsibilities, Plecas hired Mullen last January for $75,000 a year as a special adviser.
It’s not a well-known role. In fact, it’s not clear it ever existed before.
All this came to light Wednesday. That was the day after Mullen made his breakout move. He helped usher clerk of the legislature Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz off the premises after they were banished by a motion of the house. Then he made public appearances on the Speaker’s behalf to offer a guarded explanation that included the fateful words “ongoing criminal investigation.”
Virtually every politician and justice official in B.C. has clammed up and turtled down on the affair. So never mind the fact you’ve never heard of him — he’s the only official willing to say anything about what’s going on. He does so at rather random run-and-gun news conferences.
Wednesday there were hints he would offer more details to the bewildered public. He sat in the public gallery and took in question period, then stepped up in mid-afternoon for the update. “There’s no update, I’m afraid to say. We’re still at the same place.”
He was still interesting, though. He said that Plecas had concerns about a lot of different things after becoming Speaker and hired him to assist with constituency matters and various other things.
“This [the matter that led to the suspensions] just happened to be one of them. At the time it was a very small part of the bigger job.” Mullen declined to say that he built whatever case exists against James and Lenz. But he had a hand in developing it.
He said he has conducted numerous investigations, in the correctional system and elsewhere. He didn’t want to go into details.
Information was sent to Victoria police and the RCMP in the summer, he said. That led to the appointment of special prosecutors on Oct. 1.
Then this week, Mullen said that Plecas felt the information at hand was relevant and pertinent enough to present to the house leaders of all three parties in the legislature. “They looked at it and had discussions and felt it appropriate to make that motion” (to suspend the pair with pay and bar them from the legislative precinct until further notice).
So there’s still no clue about what this about. But the background has shifted slightly. Whatever the issue is, concerns about it appear to have originated in the Speaker’s office, not from elsewhere.
Plecas apparently sat as Speaker for several months while unspecified concerns about his two top executives were investigated in some fashion. And an unheralded aide who isn’t part of the legislature’s audit hierarchy played some kind of significant role in developing the information.
On Tuesday he introduced himself as someone who advises the Speaker “on all things political.”
By Wednesday, he was the public face of a legislature in crisis, saying it’s not normal practice for the Speaker to do media interviews. “We’re at this place, it’s an unfortunate place to be at,” he said, adding there won’t be any further comment.
Things are going to get a lot more unfortunate if some kind of explanation isn’t provided soon.