Darryl Plecas needs to swap the tricornered hat that comes with the job of Speaker for the classic private detective’s fedora.
Fresh off his last big case, in which he collared his clerk, he’s apparently in the midst of another one.
It’s clear that the part of the Speaker’s role that most appeals to him is the unlimited investigatory power that comes with it.
It must be the criminologist in him. His career was in that field and now he’s got the clout to start pursuing suspects, rather than just theorize about them.
He pushed that authority to the max while pursuing the spending habits of the clerk and sergeant-at-arms. Now he’s at it again.
But the latest episode of CSI Belleville Street is unfolding in a remarkably clumsy way. Nobody knows why he decided that senior officials’ desktop hard drives needed to be copied this week.
In an angry, sputtering scrum with reporters after the project created turmoil, he said it’s “simply a case of my wanting to make sure we have data secure.
“We need to make sure we have data secure. We have ongoing investigations, we’ve got to preserve data.”
That makes zero sense.
As if data isn’t routinely backed up already. And why use a private company when there’s already lots of IT wizards on the government payroll?
And why did this supposedly routine chore spark an emergency meeting of MLAs, leave the acting clerk visibly upset to the point of tears and create such a wave of paranoia?
That emergency meeting was quite telling in its own right.
When word of the data sweep developed, MLAs from all three parties convened in short order to sit down with Plecas and find out what was going on.
The encounter lasted three hours. Liberal house leader Mary Polak took notes. She released them the next day and they provide a second-hand sketch of the Speaker’s mindset.
They suggest that Plecas is seething over Beverley McLachlin’s verdict on his last case. He had turned up evidence that former clerk Craig James was taking improper benefits. McLachlin confirmed his findings, condemned the clerk and James retired the same day her report was released.
But she also had strong criticism of how Plecas handled the matter.
She said Plecas did nothing to confront his employees as their boss and instead “viewed the matter through the lens of a police investigation and criminal prosecution, rather than the lens of an administrator.”
Plecas’s private response to that?
Polak’s notes record him as saying her work was “pathetic.”
“Way down on the scale … her report was deficient because info was withheld … McLachlin — evidence missing from her investigation.”
Her notes also make clear he is determined to continue sleuthing, and feels he has full power to pursue whatever case he’s on.
“I have the authority to say: ‘I need a copy of your hard drive.’ ”
“The company that is in the process of taking the hard drives is doing this in a manner that is within the law.”
“I can walk into offices and request hard drives all over the legislature. I have the authority, I will scream it from the rafters.”
It looks as though he’s bitter about McLachlin’s rap across the knuckles and upset that she only validated some of his suspicions, not all of them.
So he’s in the midst of pursuing them again, while leaving the MLAs on the committee that supposedly manages the legislature far behind.
Premier John Horgan has decided to back him, at least just to get through the sitting, which adjourned Thursday.
It shut down with 38 identical motions from the opposition to find the Speaker in contempt, which is likely a Commonwealth record.
They won’t go anywhere. And where Plecas is going is anyone’s guess.
Just So You Know: This column will be on a long break for the next few months, as I am taking an extended summer off.
Much gratitude to readers who keep an eye on this space. It’s an honour and a pleasure to try to keep you up to date.
Les Leyne covers the B.C. Legislature for the Victoria Times Colonist.