AMONG the Plecas Report’s most serious allegation is that the Clerk pocketed a staggering $258,000 ‘long-service award’ for which he may not have been eligible, says the NDP. (Page 44)
The Report indicates the payment occurred in 2012 at the direction of BC Liberal Speaker Bill Barisoff. Although the benefit was established in 1984 and replaced in 1987 by a salary increase for table officers, Barisoff claimed in a 2012 memo “this programme was a condition of employment when the current Table Officers were appointed by the Legislative Assembly.” (Exhibit 17, p.10)
As a result, a total of $660,000 was paid out to four table officers, including $257,988.38 to Craig James.
But after concerns about the payments were raised by the Auditor-General in 2013, incoming Speaker Linda Reid asked for more information from Legislature HR Director Jo-Anne Kern.
Kern dug up James’ 1987 offer of employment and advised Reid in a memo:
“His offer of employment from the Legislative Assembly contained no reference to an Executive Benefit Plan or to a benefit recognizing years of service. It would therefore appear that Mr. James was not a party to the original years of service / executive benefit plan.” (Exhibit 17, p.4)
Kern’s memo also contained a letter from Deputy Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd dated February 20, 2013. Ryan-Lloyd had returned her payment, saying “I continue to be uncomfortable with accepting such a sizeable payment as a long-service award.” (Exhibit 17, p.68)
In summary, Reid was told:
- That Craig James was not entitled to this benefit as a condition of his employment (directly contradicting Barisoff’s memo, which was the basis for authorizing the payment);
- That the program had been capped and replaced in 1987 because it was rolled into the salary of the table officers;
- That the Deputy Clerk was so uncomfortable with the size and circumstances of these payments that she had voluntarily returned the money she had received.
Instead of sounding the alarm, Reid kept silent. In fact, Kern’s report mysteriously disappeared from the Legislature’s files and could not be located by Plecas, except for a single former staff person who kept a copy, “anticipating that its existence might one day be disputed”. (Page 49)
When asked on Thursday about Reid’s involvement, BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson admitted he hasn’t even spoken with Reid: “I haven’t spoken with Linda Reid yet, because I want her to have her own opportunities to sort things out without any involvement from me. She needs to be able to speak for herself.” (CBC, Jan 24)
“Linda Reid was warned that Craig James may have improperly pocketed a quarter million dollars, but she refused to act. The closer we look at this scandal, the more we see the disturbing connections between Craig James and the BC Liberals. Under Andrew Wilkinson, these are the same old BC Liberals who put themselves and their rich friends first while making everyone else pay the price.,” said Janet Routledge, BC NDP MLA for Burnaby North and LAMC member.