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Police Act report finds retired B.C. sgt-at-arms commits neglect of duty

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s recently retired sergeant-at-arms committed neglect of duty and didn’t tell the truth during an investigation into misconduct at the provincial legislature, a report released Tuesday concluded.

The report by former Vancouver Police Department deputy chief Doug LePard came days after Gary Lenz announced his retirement, saying the damage to his reputation couldn’t be fully repaired after he was placed on administrative leave last year when questions were raised about his spending.

Former clerk of the house Craig James retired last May after former Supreme Court justice Beverley McLachlin concluded he improperly claimed benefits and used legislature property for personal reasons. But McLachlin found Lenz did not engage in misconduct.

Legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas appointed LePard in June to conduct an independent Police Act investigation into allegations Lenz didn’t uphold his duty as a special provincial constable in over the removal of a truckload of alcohol from the legislature in April 2013 by the former clerk.

“I have concluded the evidence in its totality demonstrates that sergeant-at-arms Lenz did not uphold his oath as a special provincial constable and appears to substantiate that sergeant-at-arms Lenz committed neglect of duty for the failure in his sworn duty as a special provincial constable to adequately investigate the misappropriation of liquor by Mr. James,” LePard’s report says.

Lenz said in a statement Tuesday he rejects the findings in LePard’s report.

“I do not accept the conclusion reached by Mr. LePard that I did not give truthful testimony about my decision not to commence a formal investigation in to the removal of alcohol from the legislative precinct by Mr. James in 2013,” Lenz said. “I dispute that finding in the strongest possible terms.”

He said he has always told the truth while employed as sergeant-at-arms and was truthful in his testimony to LePard.

Lenz and James have denied any wrongdoing since they were placed on administrative leave in November 2018.

McLachlin’s report looked at administrative allegations made by Plecas in a report he released in January.

The Speaker alleged that Lenz and James engaged in inappropriate spending on personal items and foreign trips. His report also alleged inappropriate vacation pay outs and retirement allowances.

The RCMP said last November that it was investigating staff at the legislature, but it has not said who is the subject of the probe. Its investigation was aided by two special prosecutors, who have not commented on the case.

Lenz is a former RCMP detachment commander in nearby Sidney, B.C., who was appointed the legislature’s sergeant-at-arms in 2009. James was appointed clerk of the house in 2011.

The sergeant-at-arms is responsible for maintaining order in the legislative chamber and other areas used for the business of the house.

LePard’s report said he interviewed 14 witnesses, including Plecas, Mullen and Lenz. LePard said he also reviewed documents and some of Lenz’s cell phone records and emails.

The report said Lenz, with his lawyer present, was interviewed on Sept. 5 about the removal of alcohol from the legislature by James.

“He agreed it was a large load of liquor Mr. James took, but said that he assumed he was taking it to the liquor distribution branch for a refund,” the report says.

The report says Lenz told LePard he did not recall having a conversation with a witness who gave evidence that he confronted Lenz about the incident as being wrong and a theft.

“In my view, the evidence is clear that sergeant-at-arms Lenz was not telling the truth when he said orally and in writing to justice McLachlin that he assumed the liquor was being returned for refund and ‘is not aware of any theft of alcohol,’ ” LePard said in the report.

LePard said in the report it was not in his mandate to recommend discipline, but concluded “I find that sergeant-at-arms Lenz’s false oral and written statements to justice McLachlin constitute misconduct that is at the most serious end of the range of misconduct under the Police Act.”

The report, concluded prior to Lenz’s retirement announcement, said disciplinary action would range from suspension without pay to written and verbal reprimands or dismissal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2019.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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