It almost seems there’s something about putting on the three-cornered hat of Speaker of the B.C. Legislature that causes overheating of the brain underneath.
B.C. Liberal MLA Linda Reid embarked on a spending spree that included renovations and security upgrades to her Richmond constituency office as well as extravagant remodelling of the legislature she found herself ruling over with near-absolute authority.
Before Reid, Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff kept a tight leash on the press gallery and a veil over legislature finances, ruling with an imperial disdain not usually seen in trucking company owners. At least I’d buy a used truck from Barisoff, which is more than I can say for the current occupant of the ornate old speaker’s office, Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas.
We now know that Plecas hired his buddy and campaign worker as a political adviser, a job never before seen in the speaker’s office, and that buddy spent months conducting some sort of amateur gumshoe investigation that burst into the media with the unnecessary public humiliation of two long-serving senior administrators.
Then Plecas tried to get his buddy into the suddenly vacant job of sergeant-at-arms, apparently oblivious to the fact that a long-time deputy with military experience was ready to step into the sensitive job of legislature security chief.
Last year, Plecas played a key role in toppling the B.C. Liberals by seizing the speaker’s job after repeatedly stating he would never do such an unethical, self-serving thing to the voters who elected him. He plotted with the NDP for weeks, as they jockeyed for the key extra vote a defection from the B.C. Liberals would give them.
It’s safe to say the B.C. Liberals don’t like Plecas. He betrayed them for his own personal benefit after riding their reliable party brand to get re-elected in Abbotsford.
New Democrats despise their former colleague Gordon Wilson for similar reasons, although Plecas’ actions were much more sudden and damaging than Wilson’s wandering from party to party over the years.
NDP house leader Mike Farnworth grimly vowed he has confidence in Plecas as speaker.
The NDP need Plecas to retain their tenuous hold on power. That need will become critical if the Nanaimo byelection early in the new year goes against the governing party, as they sometimes do in even the safest of seats.
Here are some things you should know about Alan Mullen, Plecas’s left-hand man. Upon arrival from Ireland in 1994, he went to work on NDP campaigns. Strictly non-partisan, of course, as he describes his current job. He just liked the NDP platform.
Then he got a manager job at Kent Institution in Agassiz, where he met Plecas, who as the Abbotsford News reported last spring, “moonlighted as a prison judge while teaching at the University of the Fraser Valley.”
As Mullen told it, he and Plecas were involved in “thousands” of adjudications, inmate discipline hearings in which Mullen styled himself as prosecutor. “Thousands” seems like a lot, given that Kent has a rated capacity of 378 inmates. Mullen has no legal or police credentials.
Two actual independent prosecutors have been hired to oversee what we are told is now an RCMP investigation into unknown allegations, which could take months or years.
It may be a long time before we know if there is anything to the suspicions of a professor-turned-politician and his sidekick.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press.