Surrey’s proposed amendment freezing new ethics complaints removed from agenda

Click to play video: 'Surrey City Council to vote on pausing new ethics complaints until October election' Surrey City Council to vote on pausing new ethics complaints until October election
Bill Tieleman discusses whether a vote by Surrey City Council to suspend new ethics complaints could impact the outcome of a complaint filed against Mayor Doug McCallum by Surrey Police Vote – Jan 31, 2022

The City of Surrey’s Ethics Commissioner will continue to investigate ethics complaints after a controversial bylaw amendment vote never carried through.

A few hours prior to the city’s council meeting, Mayor Doug McCallum introduced a motion to remove the bylaw amendment from the agenda.

If the amendment had been approved, all new ethics investigations would have been paused until after the municipal election.

“The work of the Ethics Commissioner is valuable and the misinformation circulating about the bylaw is unfortunate,” the mayor said in a statement Monday afternoon.

The ultimate goal, he said, is to strengthen the bylaw to ensure the Office of the Ethics Commissioner can’t be used for partisan purposes during the election period.

Read more: Protesters gather outside Surrey, B.C. mayor’s first court date on public mischief charge

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The proposed amendment had surfaced as the embattled mayor faces an ethics complaint about staying on as chair of the Surrey Police Service board while charged with public mischief.

That investigation will continue and would have even if the amendment had been approved but no new complaints or investigations would be processed during the freeze period.

Click to play video: 'Surrey council to vote on suspending any new ethics probes' Surrey council to vote on suspending any new ethics probes
Surrey council to vote on suspending any new ethics probes – Jan 30, 2022

Some councillors, including Jack Hundial and Linda Annis, had criticized the proposal, both for the length of time it covered and what could be perceived as a political convenience for those seeking election in the fall.

Earlier on Monday, prior to McCallum’s statement, Annis called the amendment “ridiculous.”

“Politicians who hired the ethics commissioner to provide us with good governance — we’re now putting a stop to it, which beckons the question, what are we trying to hide?” she said in an interview.

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“The optics are horrific. We, as city council, need to be open and transparent to the residents and taxpayers of Surrey.”

In his own emailed comments, ethics commissioner Reece Harding said he will respect the council process.

“As such, I do not believe it is currently appropriate for me to comment on this bylaw amendment,” he wrote.

Read more: MP Sukh Dhaliwal considering a run for mayor of Surrey

McCallum’s public mischief charge stemmed from an investigation into his claims that someone ran over his foot at a Save-On-Foods parking lot during an altercation with opponents of the city’s police transition last September.

The City of Surrey will pay for his legal defence as per the terms of its indemnification bylaw, although critics argue it shouldn’t because the incident allegedly took place while the mayor was shopping on a weekend.

McCallum has declined all comment on the matter while it’s before the courts.

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