VICTORIA — On the final day of the spring legislature session, Premier John Horgan paid tribute to Randy Ennis, who was retiring early from the upper echelons of the security staff.
It’s standard procedure for the premier to thank a departing public servant. Ennis had long served as deputy sergeant-at-arms and lately as acting sergeant-at-arms, with Gary Lenz placed on suspension.
But for Horgan, this one was personal because Ennis was a friend.
“Randy and I first met at the hockey rink over a cup of Tim Horton’s,” the premier told the house. “Our boys played hockey together, so we spent a lot of time complaining about the Canucks. We spent a lot of time talking about how we could make the world a better place.
“Randy is an outstanding individual,” Horgan continued. “I’m going to miss him terribly.”
There followed a display of applause from all sides of the house, albeit tinged with regret among those in the know.
Horgan claimed not to know why Ennis, who just turned 59, was leaving early. But around the legislature, it was an open secret that Ennis was fed up with the regime of Speaker Darryl Plecas and his chief of staff, Alan Mullen.
Ennis had good reason to be incensed. Plecas had accused him of being party to a suicide pact involving an ailing member of the security staff.
The alleged suicide pact was one of 11 Plecas-authored allegations of misconduct that were examined and rejected by retired chief justice Beverley McLachlin. (She upheld four accusations against clerk of the legislature Craig James, leading to his forced retirement.)
Plecas claimed to have uncovered a plan by sergeant-at-arms Lenz and deputy Ennis to create a sheltered posting for an unnamed constable on the security staff who had a degenerative health condition.
“The Speaker also alleges that they created a plan whereby (the staffer) would commit suicide while he was still on staff so that his beneficiaries would receive insurance proceeds,” wrote McLachlin.
The former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada examined the documentation associated with the alleged plan and further evidence from the accusers, Plecas and Mullen, and the accused, Lenz and Ennis.
She concluded that “clearly Mr. Lenz and Mr. Ennis were deeply concerned over the future of the constable and wanted to find a way to help him.”
But she did not fault them for considering ways to allow the constable to work at home were his condition to deteriorate to the point where he could not carry a firearm as required by his position.
“Discussion of creating a new position so an employee can work from home does not appear on its face to be unreasonable, provided the proposed work would contribute to the business of the legislative assembly,” wrote McLachlin. “The discussions, according to Mr. Lenz and Mr. Ennis, related to whether (the staffer) could continue to do useful work without being able to carry a firearm. I accept this evidence.”
Nor did she accept the Plecas-Mullen version of events regarding the supposed suicide pact.
“The ‘plan’ that the Speaker says was being hatched proposed that (the staffer) would commit suicide while he was still employed and before his condition had deteriorated too far, in order to preserve his life insurance,” wrote McLachlin.
Plecas thereby insinuated that the new job was “false” — concocted for the purpose of preserving the staffer’s employment status long enough for him to kill himself.
“No one was able to explain the logic of this to me. The evidence I received was that if he was forced to go on disability status, his life insurance would have remained in place as long as he qualified for that status,” wrote McLachlin.
She instead preferred “the straightforward explanation of the incident” from Lenz and Ennis.
“They denied any talk of suicide and explained that the discussions were aimed at finding reasonable accommodation for (the staffer) by finding alternate duties when he reached the point that he could no longer use a firearm.”
She speculated, and not in a flattering way, why Plecas had gone as far as he did.
“The Speaker was deeply distrustful of Mr. Lenz, which may explain how he transformed fragments of an exploratory proposal from Mr. Lenz and Mr. Ennis into a bizarre go-forward plan involving (the staffer) committing suicide.”
She then cleared Lenz of the allegation of misconduct. She also cleared him of all the other Plecas accusations against him.
Lenz remains on suspension, pending the outcome of a police investigation.
So, Ennis was collateral damage to one of the more reckless and unproven allegations from Plecas.
Rough treatment for someone who deserved much better. Before coming to work at the legislature, Ennis served as a member of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, seeing duty as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, Cyprus and Haiti, and earning the military Order of Merit.
The supposed target of the non-existent suicide pact was collateral damage as well. He retired from his post on the security staff at the same time as Ennis.
Not that Plecas could be bothered to express regret over the damage done to reputations. Instead he’s been citing the shortcomings in the McLachlin report in public and bad mouthing it privately.
As for the premier, he could deliver a more sincere tribute to his departed friend by recognizing where Plecas has gone too far and by attempting to curb his excesses.