Perhaps the central figure in a still-unfolding scandal in the legislature –yet a complete unknown until the ‘perp walk’ heard around the province.
Five things you didn’t know about Alan Mullen.
- He really doesn’t like being mocked. (Darryl Plecas too.)
“Not even close,” he agrees. But as a newly public figure, there has been much speculation, questioning of his history and credentials – and yes, some mocking.
It started right away.
On the day of the now-infamous “perp walk,” Mullen concedes the Speaker’s Office made some mistakes. Plecas was at turns evasive and taciturn, at one point promising to update reporters, only to send out a then-unknown Mullen.
“It was just the chaos of the day getting the best of everyone,” he agrees.
“The plan was never for him to speak. But in the chaos of the day, he was getting hounded coming out of the hallway, then there was some not-so-great media coverage, which frustrated him.”
Everything was happening quickly. For Plecas to be managing historic events while also tracking social media and the first trickle of preliminary stories is surprising.
Suddenly the subject of mass speculation, Mullen calls much of the commentary and coverage from that period “schoolyard bullying,” referring more than once in our conversation to a particular cartoon that portrayed Plecas as the Grinch, and himself as the Grinch’s faithful dog, Max.
“Kind of funny,” says Mullen, in a tone that makes it clear he didn’t find it remotely funny.
“Yeah, we took a shit kicking for two months, and then the report came out and now we’re the golden boys.”
- He maintains the infamous “perp walk” had to happen the way it did.
“Yeah, it was interesting. It certainly wasn’t planned – it had to be done that way,” says Mullen.
Asked if he relished the attention – and camera time – escorting James off the legislature, “Not even close. The plan was, it had to be done that way.”
Could James and Lenz have just been told to call in sick that day – or waited until session had wrapped Up? Mullen is adamant: it happened the only way it could.
“Not even close. Unlike anybody else that works there, it had to be done [that way] at that time.”
Mullen said he offered both James and Lenz the opportunity for a more dignified exit.
“We said, ‘look, we’ll go to your office, get whatever you want, your keys, your coats, whatever the case, and it’ll be very quiet.’ Both individuals said, ‘No, we’ll go to our own office, we’ll grab our stuff, we’ll leave.’”
“Then Mr. James chose to stop in the hallway at the speaker’s corridor, and give a nine-minute interview. That’s their choice.”
That nine-minute interview – where James calmly professed innocence as baffled journalists (me included) stood slack-jawed – is the one thing Mullen regrets.
“In hindsight, obviously hindsight is 20/20, maybe I would’ve made a little bit of a stronger suggestion [that] they go out a different door, or whatever the case.”
As for the plainclothes Victoria police officers, that was Mullen’s call – for protection.
“I made the decision, in consultation with the Speaker, and with the chief of police for Victoria, to have two members in attendance. I had to have two armed members there. The sergeant of arms is armed. The safety, security of this building and everybody in it, is paramount. You’re giving this kind of information to an individual in a small, confined space.”
“No disparaging remarks against Gary Lenz, but obviously, the man is armed.”
- He and Darryl Plecas spent their Christmas break writing the report.
With a media storm roiling all around them – and yes, some mockery – why did they hold off releasing details for two months?
Because the report simply wasn’t ready. On the day James and Lenz were placed on leave, it hadn’t been started.
Mullen was almost a year into his investigation, of course, and had been gathering a mountain of evidence. But when they had enough to warrant going to the three house leaders, they hadn’t compiled it into a report.
They had to write it, and have it vetted by lawyers and police.
According to Mullen, they started writing the report on December 6th – the day of the now-infamous legislative management committee meeting where Plecas said details would make taxpayers “vomit.”
Mullen says it was rewritten some six times – a painstaking process which took 48 days (and to be fair, includes the Christmas break).
- He vehemently denies holding any grudges – but it bubbles beneath the surface.
With intense public interest and a near-total absence of supporting details, the resulting information vacuum naturally focused on Plecas and Mullen.
“We couldn’t give much information, so the story became the Speaker and the story became me. Which is fine, that’s the media’s job, [but] I don’t think it was a particularly unbiased view or reporting. It is what it is,” says Mullen.
Given Plecas’ acrimonious relationship with the opposition BC Liberals (they can’t even agree if Plecas left caucus or was expelled), it’s only natural to ask if there’s a grudge. And while Mullen insists his motivations (and those of Plecas) aren’t partisan, occasionally hints to the contrary slip through.
For one, he claims BC Liberal MLA Rich Coleman is to blame for media reports that he was fired from a previous job as a casino security manager, calling it “absolute nonsense.”
“Mr. Coleman felt it necessarily to put out this article, fabricate it, about me at the casino, then that’s feeding the fire obviously,” says Mullen.
There are more public hints, too. Mullen’s personal social media includes retweets like:
Amateur or not, his investigation shed a great deal of light on the corruption endemic within the BC Liberal Party. For that we should be thankful
B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson looks foolish in wake of legislature spending scandal
So does this excuse the egregious hatchet job you and the rest of Victoria’s Corporate Cabal did on Plecas and Mullen? Why didn’t you wait until the report came out before passing judgment and throwing considerable shade? Others are right; you owe them an apology.
“I’m [not] sitting in the corner crying because I was called some names. I’m saying, as a British Columbian, you’re supposed to be the cream of the crop here,” says Mullen.
“You’re an elected official and you’ve got a job to do, and part of your mandate is not to resort to schoolyard bullying or name calling.”
- He says we haven’t seen anything yet.
“You guys in the media are going to be very busy.”
Mullen says things are just starting to get interesting – he talks to the police “on a pretty regular basis” and the special prosecutors will have something by the spring. (Reached for comment, the RCMP said “we have no timeline with respect to the ongoing and active investigation.”)
What does “something” mean? Mullen says the report is just the tip of the iceberg.
“So [police investigators] doing their thing and boy, are they paying attention. That’s coming down the pike, so that’s gonna be a big bump. Then you’ve got the forensic financial audit. If they go back beyond eighteen months, we’ll luck out for hundreds of millions of dollars.”
“It’s gonna be crazy. Then you’ve got the workplace review, and overhaul is an understatement. I think that’s gonna be the biggest bump yet.”
In subsequent interviews, he and Plecas have said “there’s people going to jail,” and wants the 2011 BC Liberal leadership race investigated – which has not only already happened, but is inarguably nowhere near Plecas’ jurisdiction. Depending on your perspective, this is either an excess of zeal, or seeing conspiracy in every shadow.
Either way, Mullen and Plecas are right – there’s a lot more to this story.
Maclean Kay is Editor-in‑Chief of The Orca