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No parking for wood splitter at centre of case against former B.C. clerk, court hears

Splitter acquisition discussed because of potential usefulness in a storm and power outage
Speaker Linda Reid enters B.C. legislature chamber for throne speech, led by former sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and followed by legislature clerk Craig James, June 26, 2013. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

The former facilities manager at the British Columbia legislature told a trial Wednesday that a wood splitter was being stored at the clerk’s home while a parking spot was sorted out for it in Victoria.

The purchase of the splitter and a trailer are key elements in the case against former legislature clerk Craig James, who’s accused of misspending public money.

Randy Spraggett told the B.C. Supreme Court trial that he and James discussed purchasing the equipment because they believed it would help in the event of a severe storm that affected the power supply on Vancouver Island.

He testified that James told him to buy the wood splitter with his corporate card after researching the best options, and that James had picked it up and stored it at his home while a suitable parking spot was found at the legislature.

Special prosecutor David Butcher has told the court the wood splitter would have been “utterly useless in an emergency” for the legislature when it was parked at James’s home more than 13 kilometres away.

James has pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of breach of trust by a public officer based on allegations stemming from his time serving as clerk between 2011 and 2018.

The Crown has said the case against James rests on three main areas: the purchase of the trailer and wood splitter with public funds; his claim to a retirement allowance of more than $250,000; and certain expenses claimed while in the job.

When Spraggett was questioned by Butcher about the storage of the splitter and trailer at James’s home, he agreed it would have been difficult to transport them to the legislature in the event of a storm affecting roads and infrastructure.

James was suspended in 2018 after an RCMP investigation began into allegations of misspending. He began working at the legislature in 1987 and resigned in 2019.

—Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

RELATED: B.C. clerk says she didn’t see rationale for predecessor’s retirement benefit