|Bill Tieleman - returns to the scene of the BC Rail crime trial - at BC Supreme Court|
BC Chief Justice Robert Bauman opened a 5-day hearing in BC Supreme Court this morning to rule on an unprecedented application by BC's independent Auditor General John Doyle to get government documents related to the Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid case.
Doyle is examining the $6 million indemnification of legal defence costs paid by the BC Liberal government despite former ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk eventually pleading guilty to breach of trust and fraud charges they faced for several years.
The sudden guilty plea bargain deal in October 2010 after just two witnesses testified in the case shocked the province and left the odds of finding out what really happened in the $1 billion sale of BC Rail in 2003 in grave doubt.
Doyle is trying to find out how Basi and Virk were able to negotiate their legal fees being paid when government policy is to only indemnify those costs when the accused are found not guilty.
Former BC Liberal Solicitor General and MLA John van Dongen - who quit the party and joined the BC Conservatives earlier this year - is attending the court hearing and has been granted official intervenor status. Veteran lawyer Roger McConchie is representing van Dongen in court at the MLA's expense.
I spoke to van Dongen outside court when the hearing adjourned for lunch.
"It's very frustrating. That's one of the reasons I applied for intervenor status," van Dongen said. "It's very important that the Auditor General have full and unfettered access under his Act to all the documents he needs."
Van Dongen said the entire indemnity program for BC government employees - Doyle is seeking information on 99 indemnification agreements going back 15 years - is "something of an ad hoc process" based on information provided in Court so far.
"The special indemnity program has evolved over time with little elected official involvement," van Dongen said.
And he said that just like the previous multi-year pre-trial hearing process: "The pattern has been often one of delays."
The hearing resumes this afternoon and is scheduled to continue daily through Friday.
I will be speaking with Jon McComb of CKNW AM 980 at about 4:15 p.m. today about this hearing.
UPDATE - 5 p.m. - I was able to attend part of Monday afternoon's hearing - and was the only media member there at the end of the day. I can report that the content was less than exciting - Auditor General John Doyle's lawyer Louis Zivot gave a thorough reading of case law and legislation regarding Auditor Generals across Canada with special attention to the BC Auditor General Act but it was a bit far from scintillating for most observers - and there were very few.
I had another discussion with BC Conservative MLA John van Dongen and his lawyer Roger McConchie at the end of the session and they expect it to go the full 5 days scheduled.
I will be in attendance again Tuesday as time permits and will file another posting then.