VANCOUVER — Public hearings ended months ago but work continues behind the scenes at the controversial Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, where lawyers and other handpicked staff members continue to bill B.C. taxpayers at rates that former inquiry participants claim are “outrageous” and “out of control.”
The province’s latest public accounts record reveals that senior inquiry workers including commissioner Wally Oppal commanded more pay in the last fiscal year than B.C.’s most highly compensated public servants, including its longest-serving judges, provincial cabinet ministers and their deputies, and all but a handful of top Crown corporation executives.
Senior commission counsel Art Vertlieb topped the list, charging the province $483,741 for inquiry work performed in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012. Associate counsel Karey Brooks and her Vancouver-based law firm billed taxpayers $482,139 over the same period. Mr. Oppal, meanwhile, charged $324,267, according to the public accounts.
Jessica McKeachie, a first-year lawyer whom Mr. Oppal hired to conduct research, billed the province $203,134. Another young inquiry lawyer with three years’ experience charged taxpayers $236,606 for her work.