Les Leyne: Bizarre twist raises questions about Speaker’s judgment

Les Leyne mugshot genericThe mystery story about the abrupt suspension of two key officers of the legislature went off on a bizarre tangent Thursday.

The only thing revealed by the end of the day were some questions about the judgment of Speaker Darryl Plecas, who is getting more reclusive day by day.

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They centre on new details about an option Plecas raised with the house leaders of the three parties in the legislature when they met the night before the house suspended clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz.

The story so far is that the house suspended the pair Tuesday morning, the day after Plecas briefed the leaders on an ongoing criminal investigation, for which two special prosecutors had been appointed weeks earlier.

Information leading to that criminal investigation was developed in some fashion by a special adviser to Plecas — Alan Mullen.

His work on the case culminated in him escorting the two top officials out the back door of the legislature with city police in attendance after they were banished.

Thursday morning, a new tidbit from that house leaders’ meeting with the Speaker came to light.

Opposition House Leader Mary Polak revealed that Plecas had expressed the wish Lenz be replaced, at least temporarily, by none other than Mullen, his friend, former work colleague and special adviser of 11 months.

The suggestion went nowhere. Why? Because it’s the dumbest idea since the Canucks opted not to name a captain this season.

It probably took the house leaders about a nano-second to realize that. But just the idea that the Speaker would pitch such a ludicrous concept is quite jolting.

There was already a perfectly able deputy sergeant-at-arms with years of experience on deck. What claim would a previously unknown special adviser with 11 months’ experience have on the job?

And how could the man who played a role in laying the groundwork for a criminal investigation take over the job of the official he’d helped turn into a suspect?

In the background is the Opposition’s antipathy to Plecas. He succumbed to the NDP’s overtures and quit the B.C. Liberal caucus last year to become Speaker, which gave the NDP and Greens more of an edge in the seat count.

Liberals have never forgiven him.

But Polak’s version of the meeting was essentially confirmed by the two other house leaders present.

She also delivered it in the form of a sworn affidavit, a clue to how seriously this is being taken.

Her story touched off a mad scramble in the Speaker’s corridor, where reporters wanted to hear from the man himself. He didn’t exactly distinguish himself, although it would have been tough for anyone to shine in the chaos.

He committed to a full personal response by mid-afternoon and said people would find it interesting.

When the appointed time arrived, Plecas didn’t.

It was Mullen who stepped up, for his third full-scale news conference in as many days.

He just announced that the Speaker has decided to hire another “special adviser.”

The latest one on the roster is 78-year-old Wally Oppal, known to all as a former attorney general, former judge and former inquiry commissioner.

Mullen went back into the Speaker’s office and closed the door, but left lots of questions behind.

As far as the Speaker is concerned, whatever the case against James and Lenz is, it’s firmly in the hands of the police and two special prosecutors.

The Speaker removed them from their duties and nothing further is required of him.

So why does he need another special adviser?

If anything further is required, why can’t his current special adviser handle it?

It looks like Oppal is back for two reasons. One is to leave the impression that a respected jurist is getting some semblance of control over this twilight zone episode.

The other reason is the particular skill Oppal developed during his one term in the legislature. For all his notable achievements, he also has a genius for deflecting reporters’ questions. He cited the age-old “it’s before the courts” defence so many times as attorney general, he was dubbed “Stonewally.”

If Stonewally is back in the game, get used to hearing the phrase “inappropriate to comment.”

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