Crisis meeting held at B.C. legislature over Plecas’s move to ‘safeguard data’

High drama in Victoria as the spring legislative session nears an end

House Speaker Darryl Plecas speaks with Kate Ryan-Lloyd acting clerk of the house during a Legislative Assembly Management Committee meeting in the Douglas Fir room at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 21, 2019. CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

VICTORIA — A blow-up over Speaker Darryl Plecas’s move to “safeguard data” from the computer of the acting clerk of the legislature prompted an hour-long crisis meeting Wednesday evening involving government house leader Mike Farnworth and senior staff in Premier John Horgan’s office.

While that meeting, which was held in a conference room near the legislature chamber after the house adjourned, was ongoing acting clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd emerged from Plecas’ office in tears.

After going to her own office at the far end of the corridor, Ryan-Lloyd returned to the conference room and spent almost half an hour meeting with Farnworth and head of the civil service Don Wright, as well as the premier’s chief political advisor Geoff Meggs.

Later, Plecas himself came from his office and went directly to Ryan-Lloyd’s office. Asked what was happening, he said:

“We are taking steps to safeguard data around here. It is nothing more than that.”

Asked why Ryan-Lloyd had left his office distraught an hour earlier, Plecas replied: “Kate is very sensitive about these issues.”

Farnworth maintained that the situation was in hand.

“The clerk is fine,” he said. “And the only thing I will say is, I will probably have more to say tomorrow.”

Asked if Ryan-Lloyd has his support as acting clerk, Farnworth replied: “Absolutely. On that there is no issue.”

Farnworth will be moving a motion in the legislature Thursday for an all-party committee to recruit a new permanent clerk of legislature, replacing former clerk Craig James who retired after a spending scandal.

The committee will take applications and the new clerk will require a unanimous vote of MLAs to select the successor.

However, given the high regard in which Ryan-Lloyd is held by the house leader of all three parties in the legislature, she’s widely-considered to be the front-runner for the job, presuming she applies.

Adding to the drama of the closing hours of the spring legislative session, acting sergeant-at-arms Randy Ennis confirmed he’s retiring effective Friday.

He declined to say anything more. However, it is believed Plecas was moving to safeguard data on his computer as well.

The legislature will now have to select another acting sergeant-at-arms to replace Ennis.

James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz were suspended with pay in November, after Plecas raised allegations of misspending on their part.

Retired chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, was brought in to review the allegations.

Her report, released this month, found James had committed misconduct related to a retirement bonus, suits, luggage and a wood splitter he kept at his home.

McLachlin cleared Lenz of any misconduct as an employee.

He remains suspended because the RCMP is still investigating the case, under the supervision of two special prosecutors. No charges have been laid.

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