The Ontario Provincial Police force has been asked to independently review an RCMP investigation into Speaker of the Legislature and Richmond East MLA Linda Reid’s office renovation expenses, the Vancouver Sun has learned.
Reid spent $79,000 on upgrades to her Richmond constituency office that she billed to the legislature as necessary security work, but which the RCMP, in internal documents obtained by the Sun, said were not required by police.
The RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime division investigated the expense, and recently sent its conclusions to the Ontario Provincial Police for an independent review.
Reid has not been charged with any offence. And the RCMP said in a statement Wednesday that the “RCMP investigation has been concluded, having found no evidence to suggest a criminal act was committed.”
However, the expenditure does seem to have caused the RCMP some political concern. Senior B.C. Mounties believed they would be blamed for Reid’s renovations, which included non-security work such as “expensive remodelling of the bathroom and kitchen areas,” according to a March briefing note for E Division assistant commissioner Wayne Rideout, obtained through the Access to Information Act.
Ontario police confirmed they are now reviewing the way the investigation was handled.
“The Ontario Provincial Police have been asked by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in British Columbia to provide a review into a complaint received with regards to the Speaker of the British Columbia Legislature,” OPP spokesman Sgt. Peter Leon said in an interview.
“We’re not conducting the investigation. We’ve just been asked to conduct a review to the investigation which has been conducted. We get the final product and report any findings back to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in B.C.”
The case has been assigned to a member of Ontario’s criminal investigation branch, said Leon.
Reid did not respond to an interview request but instead issued a statement through her lawyer.
“The question of these expenditures at my constituency office were fully canvassed at LAMC (the Legislative Assembly Management Committee) where I took full responsibility for the expenditures,” she said.
“It is not my practice to comment on or discuss the security measures taken at my constituency office.”
The internal documents show that the RCMP investigation was called after several days of intense internal emailing by police who feared they might have to publicly contradict the Speaker about the need for the renovations.
RCMP officers from Premier Christy Clark’s personal protection detail had reviewed the security provisions at Reid’s constituency office — located in the Garden City Mall in Richmond — in August 2013 after an alleged foiled bomb plot at the legislature.
That review “identified several areas which could be improved” but was merely an outline of a “range of security improvement measures” and there was no recommendation or requirement that any specific work be undertaken, according to the briefing note.
“There is no opinion provided by Protective Services with respect to which improvements should be selected and/or should be considered necessary; the service is a consultative process to educate and provide a variety of potential options to each office,” read the note.
The full assessment was redacted by the RCMP before it was released to The Sun under a section of federal law that allows the force to withhold information related to investigations on “the detection, prevention or suppression of crime.”
Nonetheless, Reid proceeded with the renovations later in 2013, which she has publicly said included alarms, video surveillance and a large bench bolted to the concrete sidewalk outside her office to prevent a vehicle attack from the parking lot.
After the work was done in January 2014, Reid commissioned her own security assessment by retired Richmond RCMP officer Larry Litke, who wrote an email backing up the security work she had already completed.
In the “post-renovation assessment,” also obtained by The Sun, Litke concluded he was “satisfied that you have met the requirements needed in upgrading the security at your office.” Reid passed on Litke’s report to officials in the legislature to explain why she did the renovations.
That report was flagged by RCMP investigators as “inaccurate and potentially misleading” because it gave the impression the RCMP could authorize expenses on the part of the Speaker or any other MLA, the force said in a statement Wednesday.
“This has been assessed as an inadvertent choice of words and the RCMP clarified the response immediately with the Speaker and the Legislature to ensure there was no confusion or potential for future misunderstanding on the part of the public/media,” according to the RCMP statement to The Sun on Wednesday.
“The email was not used to justify or authorize the funds expended by the Speaker.”
Litke signed the report as the “Richmond RCMP Risk Management Coordinator” and used an active RCMP email address. He has been a retired member of the force since at least 2009, but according to the RCMP was still an employee.
He’s listed by the RCMP Veterans’ Association as a Richmond contact, and an archived City of Richmond website from 2012 listed Litke as a volunteer liaison at an airport community police station.
Reid and Litke also appear to be longtime acquaintances.
Hansard records show Reid introduced Litke and his family to the legislature in 1992 and 2007. In 2012, she mentioned Litke’s daughter in the house, noting “I have known this young woman since she was born.”
The tension between the Speaker and police reached a crisis point in mid-March when Reid was already under fire publicly after Vancouver Sun stories outlined her expensive upgrades to the legislature, including a $48,412 custom touch-screen computer for her throne and a $13,499 TV lounge for MLAs that included free muffins and coffee.
Senior Mounties expressed worry that Reid could attempt to use the police force as justification for her expenses, according to the March briefing note.
Ultimately, Reid told MLAs on a legislature committee in March that she had conducted the work after unspecified advice following the legislature bombing.
“A number of security assessments were carried out following those events, including one at my constituency office,” she told MLAs at a March 11 meeting. “Based on the best advice available to me at the time, I undertook a number of security enhancements at my office.”
About $45,000 was spent on “security provisions,” $28,000 on “costs related to building code compliance,” and $6,000 in “temporary rent,” Reid said.
Ontario Provincial Police said it cannot comment on specifics of the Reid case, and do not have a timeline on how long the review will take.