From left, Surrey Police Vote proponent Darlene Bennett, Surrey ethics commissioner Reece Harding and Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (Surrey Now-Leader file photos)

From left, Surrey Police Vote proponent Darlene Bennett, Surrey ethics commissioner Reece Harding and Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (Surrey Now-Leader file photos)

Ethics complaint filed by police transition opponents focuses on Surrey mayor’s legal woes

Surrey Police Vote says McCallum has violated the city’s code of conduct in 8 sections

The Surrey Police Vote campaign has filed a complaint with the City of Surrey’s independent ethics commissioner.

In a release from the group Friday (Dec. 17), the complaint states Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has “violated the City’s Code of Conduct in eight separate sections over conflict of interest on policing and the City’s indemnification of legal bills over his criminal charge.”

READ ALSO: Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum defends city decision to fund his legal expenses, Dec. 14, 2021

READ ALSO: Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum charged with public mischief in run-over foot case, Dec. 10, 2021

On Dec. 10, the B.C. Prosecution Service announced McCallum had been charged with one count of public mischief stemming from a Sept. 4 incident in South Surrey where he claimed his foot was run over during an altercation with the pro-RCMP group collecting signatures for the Surrey Police Vote.

His first court appearance is set for Jan. 25, 2022.

The Surrey Police Vote complaint adds that McCallum should have stepped down as chair of the Surrey Police Board, as well as recused himself from Surrey city council and committee discussions “as soon as he learned in September that he was under police investigation and again after being criminally charged.”

Darlene Bennett, the proponent for the Surrey Police Vote campaign, filed the complaint with the ethics commissioner, Reece Harding.

“Mayor McCallum having Surrey taxpayers responsible for his expensive legal bills over his criminal charge is unbelievable,” Bennett said. “Our complaint says there are no grounds for indemnification of the Mayor’s legal costs when he was acting as a private citizen, not on mayoral duties, at the time of the incident that led to a public mischief charge. He should pay all his own legal bills.”

Bennett launched the Surrey Police Vote campaign in mid-August in an effort to force a referendum on the Surrey police transition.

The group, which collected 42,942 signatures from registered Surrey voters instead of the 10 per cent from B.C.’s 87 ridings, ultimately failed to meet Elections BC’s petition requirement.

READ ALSO: Surrey Police Vote petition mostly funded by National Police Federation, Dec. 15, 2021

Harding told the Now-Leader the Surrey Ethics Commission Office (SECO) has received a complaint from Bennett, and “at this time we are completing intake of the complaint and will process it as per our Complaint Intake Policy and Formal Review Policy.”

He added the SECO does not provide public statements or updates on its ongoing complaints, “so from this point forward we will not be commenting on this investigation.”

Harding was appointed as ethics commission on July 13, 2020 to be a “neutral, independent officer who oversees the conduct of elected officials at the City of Surrey, and operates independently of City Council and City Administration,” according to the city’s website.

SECO is tasked with providing advice to council members “on behaviour that would be consistent with the Council Members’ ethical obligations under the Code of Conduct”; receive, review, investigate and adjudicate complaints related to the conduct of a council member; and to determine whether to proceed to investigate a formal complaint.

As of Nov. 1, the SECO has received 42 complaints, resolved and closed 37, with five complaints open and being processed.

In an emailed statement from Amber Stowe, communications and media relations lead for the city, said “since this is before the courts, the City and Mayor will not be commenting.”

READ ALSO: Keep the RCMP in Surrey members, who were banned from council, file court petition, Dec. 15, 2021

– With files from Aaron Hinks

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