Friday, November 23, 2018

Controversy swirls around Legislature Speaker over ousting of officials

The British Columbia Legislature has been a House of Secrecy
this week following three days of internal drama
(photo from Gov't of BC)

The British Columbia Legislature, a place not unknown to controversy and mystery is once again in the whirlwind of a percolating scandal, that following a string of events that continued to top each other as each day moved forward from Tuesday.

The chaotic week of developments began with two of the Legislatures most established officials from the Chamber, Mr. Craig James, Clerk of the Assembly and Mr. Gary Lenz, Sergeant at Arms,  ousted from their long time positions by way of administrative leave and escorted off the premises by Security.

With few details to be offered up as to the nature of the offences which had led to the early week dramatics.

The request that they depart the building coming after Speaker Daryl Plecas put forward his concerns to the House leaders of each party, with Government House Leader Mike Farnworth rising Tuesday morning to advise the Legislature of the situation that was evolving in the Chamber and to seek the support of the MLA's for the personnel move.  (see statement at 11:06:45 AM)

Government House Leader Mike Farnworth announcing the placement of
two Chamber officials on Administrative Leave on Tuesday 

When the whiff of a potential scandal starts to waft out of Victoria, the top hitters in British Columbia journalism are quick to their word processors and this week we received some excellent opinion pieces from many of the Deans of the Legislature press corps and other observers of the province's political scene.

A legislature that has known plenty of drama and intrigue gets more of it
Humiliating handling of ousted officials requires further explanation
Speaker Darryl Plecas behind investigation of senior legislature staff
Mystery at the BC Legislature after top officials perp-walked out
Yet another only in BC affair as legislature officials suspended
BC Speaker's office says it has been investigating clerk and sergeant at arms since January
Investigation into BC Legislature officers began in January

By yesterday, the Legislature drama had taken a new twist, with word that Alan Mullen a friend and former co-worker of Speaker Darryl Plecas, who had been hired in January to a newly created position of special adviser to the Speaker's office, had been recommended by Mr. Plecas himself to take over one of the two positions.

That job offer alone making for an eye brow raising move in a town where eyebrows move up and down as though afflicted by a tic.

That questionable hiring plan suggested by the Speaker, is more akin to something that you might expect to hear about from a small town in British Columbia.

Places where out of the spotlight of any kind of an engaged media, a Mayor, or City Council might look to put some friends from High School or University, into some newly created and high paying civic salary positions.

The abject nod to cronyism is certainly not what one might expect from the very fulcrum of the province's democratic institution of the Legislature, particularly when one considers all of the media attention that the Victoria Parliamentary precinct attracts.

What makes the attempted move to put Mr. Mullen into the position even more of a howler, is the fact that he was the one that conducted the secretive seven month investigation that led to Tuesday's removal of the two officials, in effect creating space for his own potential hiring.

By Thursday afternoon, as MLA's were bringing a most remarkable work week to an end, the House Leader had returned to the Chamber to put forward a motion that will see the Acting Sergeant at Arms position turned over to Randall Ennis, the Deputy Sergeant at Arms, making for about the only sensible bit of decision making of the week so far.

Even by Victoria measures, the strange twists to the story have the ingredients for another in the long list of political blockbusters to come from the provincial political scene.

Speaker with little to say about his bit to promote pal calls on Oppal
The plot thickens in the case of the Speaker, the Clerk and the Sergeant at Arms
BC Legislature rejected plan from Speaker to replace sergeant at arms with aide
Former AG's appointment caps day of confusion at BC Legislature
Enter Stonewally Oppal as legislature circus gets crazier by the day
Speaker tried to appoint friend as interim sergeant-at-arms
Former Judge Wally Oppal added to BC legislature investigation
Speaker tried to appoint friend to BC Legislature sergeant-at-arms job, according to sworn affidavit
Meet Alan Mullen who helped to usher out legislature managers

Man on a Hot Seat ... Speaker Daryl Plecas is now a key element to
the ongoing drama surrounding the Legislature Chamber

The events of Thursday saw the very credibility of the Speaker come into question, with the added layer of of intrigue coming from the fact that Speaker Plecas has already been eyed with suspicion by Liberals following his move from their party to the Speakers Chair.

That short but dramatic transit was just another controversial day for the Legislature and one that secured the NDP government's hold on power one year ago.

With so many axes around and so much grinding underway, one wonders if the smoke and sparks will ever clear from the Legislature hallways.

The NDP and probably the Greens as well, are most likely less inclined to shuffle Speaker Plecas off by way of stage left, lest their hold on the Legislature slip and the province be plunged into a new election, bringing with it the possibility of their grand alliance lost.

Though the very prospect of the longevity of Speaker Plecas is now something that appears to be very much in play, with rumbles of a recall move to be put forward for the New Year now echoing around the corridors of the Legislature.

And all of this, without even word one yet from the RCMP about the nature of their investigation and where it all may lead.

The week out of Victoria would seem to have more in common with the plot development from the writers of House of Cards, than how a democratic institution should actually work.

So far the only thing that seems certain from the entire mess, is that British Columbians don't really have a clue what's going on in the Legislature and those that do, don't seem inclined to talk about it  with those that deserve some answers.

Neither of which is particularly good for the concept of a transparent governmental process.

While we've heard a lot lately about how foreign actors are looking to diminish our democratic institutions, sometimes it seems you don't have too look too far to realize that some of the greatest dangers to those institutions are perhaps as close as the membership of the very Chamber itself.

The volume of material that has been compiled since Tuesday can be found through our political portal D'Arcy McGee and our Victoria Viewpoints archive page.

No comments:

Post a Comment