B.C. premier grateful 'very sad chapter' in legislature history over with Craig James verdict

A judge found former B.C. legislature clerk Craig James guilty Thursday nearly four years after being escorted out of the building. James was found guilty of breach of trust and fraud for purchasing clothing during trips and billing his employer for them. We have full coverage from reporters Aaron McArthur and Richard Zussman.

Describing the B.C. legislature’s clerk scandal as a difficult time, Premier John Horgan says he is “grateful that a very sad chapter in this institution’s history has now been put to rest.”

Horgan was speaking to reporters on Thursday, just hours after former clerk Craig James was found guilty of fraud and breach of trust.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, of the B.C. Supreme Court, said James dishonestly described clothing he purchased as work attire when he knew it was not.

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Craig James, former B.C. legislature clerk, guilty of fraud, breach of trust

But he was cleared for wrong doing on charges related to a $258,000 retirement fund and the use of a wood splitter.

“It was a difficult time for the people who work here, British Columbians who are passionate and committed to our institutions of democracy who make this place accessible for countless British Columbians who come to visit, to see our democracy in action,” Horgan said to reporters.

“It was definitely a blow to all of those who care about this place.”

Crown prosecutors argued during the trial that James used his position, which they likened to the CEO of the legislative assembly, to take advantage of weaknesses in policy to enrich himself.

The saga has been unfolding since 2018, when former Speaker Darryl Plecas presented evidence to the Legislature’s management committee accusing James of wrong doing.

Plecas left politics in 2020.

The scandal has led to various changes within the Legislature.

In a statement, current Speaker Raj Chouhan said at time the scandal ‘overshadowed’ the work being done at the Legislature.

Since 2018, the Legislative Assembly has adopted dozens of policy and other administrative reforms including developing new policies regarding employee travel, hospitality, internal audit, liquor control and inventory, progressive discipline, retirement allowance and respectful workplaces.

The province has enhanced oversight and management of permanent officers of the Legislative Assembly and created a new, independent internal audit program for the Legislative Assembly including an assessment of internal controls, systems and program efficacy.

The legislature now posts executive staff compensation and travel expenses four times per year.

“I want to assure British Columbians that today’s Legislative Assembly is a stronger, more accountable institution than it has ever been,” Chouhan said.

“With enhanced oversight and increased transparency, we are a leader in parliamentary governance in Canada. While much has been done, this important work will continue for the foreseeable future.”

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