In his first public comments since the release of his explosive report into the misuse of money at the B.C. Legislature, speaker Darryl Plecas said he hopes British Columbians will be repaid for the misuse of public funds.
Speaking to reporters following an event in Abbotsford, Plecas says a lot of work needs to be done to restore public trust.
“We are the people’s house, we are there for the people and the people have every right to have access to the information,” Plecas said.
“The other thing of course is the impact all of this has had on taxpayers and I want to get to the point where we get our money back.”
Plecas released a report Monday alleging that sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and clerk Craig James participated in “flagrant overspending on luxurious trips overseas with questionable business rationales” and “expensing of all manner of personal purchases to the legislative assembly, totaling tens of thousands of dollars over a period of less than two years.”
The report also accuses the pair of lacking oversight for millions of dollars and being in charge of “unjustified terminations.”
Lenz and James have denied wrongdoing. The RCMP is still investigating, and two special prosecutors are overseeing the case.
Plecas says “there is definitely more to come here” and that he will only feel vindicated when the 17 people who were forced out of their jobs for allegedly speaking out against James and Lenz are “made whole.”
“If I had my way every single person who was wronged at the legislature would be made whole,” Plecas said.
“Because there is no excuse for that. And there is no way anyone should have to say the damage is done.”
The speaker was also asked why he signed off on expense forms from James and Lenz. Plecas says it was part of the way to ensure that alleged wrongdoing was well documented.
There were also cases where Plecas witnessed activities first-hand, including the purchase of an $1,100 suit while in London.
“There is no way we could have gotten to where we are right now if I would have said something in the first instance, if I would have raised the flag at that moment,” Plecas said.
Premier John Horgan also weighed in on the scandal for the first time since the report was released. Horgan said his government is working on bringing changes into the legislature.
Those changes are expected to include a much more rigorous process for overseeing expenses for senior legislature staff.
“Like all of you I was shocked by the allegations brought forward by the speaker,” Horgan said.
“It is critically important that we all work on this together. I am reminded that when all of this was unfolding last fall, the Liberal opposition were critical of Mr. Plecas for taking action to address what were clearly excessive activities from officers of the legislature.”
In November, when the scandal was first evolving, Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson was highly critical of Plecas.
“There’s a grave concern that the Speaker is out of control. We need to be concerned that he’s building his own little empire, staffed with expensive lawyers, with investigators with no credentials and he’s being allowed to get away with it,” Wilkinson said in November.
Wilkinson is expected to speak to reporters on Thursday. Horgan says the criticism was uncalled for.
“I give full marks for speaker Plecas to have the courage despite the reckless smearing that went on from the BC Liberals of his character,” Horgan said.
“He has shed a light on something that British Columbians are startled and disgusted by.”
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