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B.C. Speaker, adviser yelled at staff during misspending investigation: James trial

Then-acting sergeant-at-arms testifed he was screamed at like a dog
Speaker of the House Darryl Plecas walks by at the provincial Legislature in Victoria, Oct. 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

A former employee of British Columbia’s legislature says he was “screamed at like a dog” by the former Speaker and his special adviser during an investigation into misspending allegations against former clerk Craig James.

Randall Ennis, who served as acting sergeant-at-arms in 2018, told the B.C. Supreme Court in James’s fraud and breach of trust trial that the locks to the clerk’s office were changed after James was suspended.

Ennis testified there were only two sets of keys to the clerk’s office and he felt “uncomfortable” when then-SpeakerDarryl Plecas demanded the second set, because he believed the rooms should be sealed for the police investigation.

He says Plecas and Alan Mullen, the man Plecas hired to examine James’s administrative duties,went through the clerk’s office, at one point set off an alarm.

Ennis says when Plecas and Mullen told him the RCMP were coming to investigate, Ennis responded that the acting clerk should be informed, at which point they “yelled and screamed” that he was either “with us or against us.”

Defence lawyer Gavin Cameron told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes he is concerned several witnesses will testify they had similar experiences with Plecas and it’s relevant to the assessment of their evidence.

“The Speaker had ultimate power over all staff at the legislative assembly,” Cameron said, to which Ennis agreed.

Ennis told the court that Plecas and Mullen accused him of trying to impede an investigation, to which he responded, “No sir, I’m not.”

“I felt that the clerk should be aware of what was going on. They took a judgment of that and started yelling and screaming at me,” he said.

“They said you’re with us or against us,” Cameron asked.

Cameron told the judge the atmosphere in 2018 was important to understand because some stories told in 2022 about what happened won’t be “the truth as it existed.”

Ennis says he wishes RCMP had quarantined the rooms in part because Plecas would later accuse him of removing evidence. The allegation is “very false,” he said.

Plecas alleged “a lot of things against a lot of people,” Ennis said, and the allegations still bother him.

“I was disappointed and upset, yes. I still am.”

Plecas and Mullen’s move to clone the hard drives of legislative staff contributed to Ennis’s decision to retire in May 2019, he testified.

James denies charges of fraud and breach of trust relating to his claim to a $258,000 retirement allowance, travel expense claims and the purchase of a wood splitter and trailer with public funds.

He was escorted from the legislature in November 2018 and Plecas produced a report detailing allegations of misspending in early 2019.

—Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

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