After being sworn-in herself Monday afternoon, Mayor Jyoti Gondek proceeded to swear in all but one of her colleagues on Calgary city council.
Sean Chu, left to be the final councillor to take the oath of office, was instead sworn in by Justice John Rooke as the mayor watched from the gallery.
“I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to swear him in,” Gondek told media after the ceremony. “It did not seem right to me.
“The justice was willing to do it and I felt that was more appropriate.”
Chu has been facing calls to resign from both Calgarians and members of council since a CBC news story revealed allegations of impropriety with a minor while he was a member of the Calgary Police Service.
Chu denied the allegations on Thursday, but did say there was “consensual touching” between him and the girl.
Following the swearing in, Chu did not address assembled media.
Calgary’s first woman mayor recognized that Chu is the Ward 4 councillor, calling the job an “incredible responsibility.”
And she was confident the city’s 103rd council will get along.
“We know what we have to do,” Gondek said. “There’s many big things that Calgarians are expecting from us, and we have all had a very frank conversation with each other about how we need to work together.”
But Gondek didn’t tip her hand on how council would come together as a team in the coming days.
“Every team comes together in different ways,” she said. “We shall see.”
Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who was re-elected to his fourth term, said the swearing-in ceremony marked a “line in the sand” with regards to his Ward 4 colleague.
With councillors to decide who sits on which committees in a week’s time, the Ward 9 representative seemed to downplay any impact Chu would have on the work needed to be done there.
“I will say that some members of council do a lot of work, some members of council don’t, and I don’t see there being a major impact to council’s ability to get work done with this particular councillor in this particular situation,” Carra said.
Lori Williams, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, said Chu taking office is more than just a distraction to council.
“This has implications for democratic representation for the people of Ward 4,” she said.
“The problem is that he has been either lying or distorting the truth about what happened for more than a week now and so trust has been damaged — if not destroyed — and many people in Ward 4 feel betrayed.”
Pointing to councillors leaving office or having a diminished role, Williams said it’s different when a councillor starts a new term not readily able to get along with their colleagues.
“To suggest somebody walk into a term of four years with a diminished capacity to represent their constituents is really unfair to the voters in that ward,” she said.
Carra said this episode is about more than just the Ward 4 councillor, highlighting the alleged victim and the CPS internal investigation.
“We absolutely have to reform our policing,” he said. “We cannot have the police investigating themselves, and that’s something that the police openly acknowledge needs to be reformed.
“That’s a Police Act situation that we need to work with our provincial partners to get to.”