John van Dongen, the former B.C. Liberal MLA who now sits as an Independent for Abbotsford South, has asked B.C.'s Conflict of Interest Commissioner to conduct a formal inquiry to determine whether Premier Christy Clark broke the law in her handling of the BC Rail issue back in 2003.
"I have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that Christy Clark contravened the Member's Conflict of Interest Act," van Dongen wrote last month in an extraordinary 23-page letter to Conflict Commissioner Paul Fraser.
Along with the letter, van Dongen has compiled and submitted a 49-tab binder filled with publicly available information he says supports the need for a comprehensive investigation.
Contained in those documents, van Dongen says, are reasonable grounds to show that while Clark was minister of education, she may have participated in cabinet meetings on the BC Rail issue while being in a position of conflict.
Van Dongen also pointed to what he believes are inconsistent public statements made by Clark about what she did and when.
Clark's conflict arose because her brother, Bruce Clark, had been working as a consultant to the Washington Marine Group, one of the bidders on BC Rail's Roberts Bank spur line.
Van Dongen submitted his detailed complaint to Fraser on Oct. 18.
Since then, he has received acknowledgment of receipt from the commissioner and an indication that Clark herself would be notified, but no other indication of how the commissioner will proceed.
Under the act, it is Fraser's call how to proceed, including an option to reject the request as insufficient grounds to proceed.
Or, if he found a prima facie case for a violation of the act, he could order a full-blown inquiry, with powers to summon witnesses, take testimony under oath and compel the production of documents and records.
In the event he found Clark had breached the act, the commissioner has the power to recommend a number of penalties, ranging from a reprimand, a suspension, a fine not exceeding $5,000 or the outright vacating of the member's seat, necessitating a by-election.
Final call on whether to proceed on any recommendation from the commissioner would be up to the legislature, where the Liberals hold a majority of the seats.
Van Dongen was once been a member of the B.C. Liberal cabinet under former premier Gordon Campbell, but he left the party earlier this year, publicly citing unanswered questions and issues with Clark's leadership.