Surrey Connect mayoral candidate Brenda Locke says if she’s elected on Oct. 15 she will make Mayor Doug McCallum repay the legal fees he’s incurred to defend himself – on the taxpayers’ dime – against his public mischief charge.
“Doug, I’m warning you to be very careful with every minute you spend with your lawyer over the next 5 weeks, because we are coming for you to repay every dime,” Locke stated in a press release issued Tuesday. “If elected mayor, the leader of the Surrey Connect team will instruct staff to do everything possible to recuperate McCallum’s expenses related to defending his criminal charge. His legal fees are expected to total over $200,000.”
McCallum is set to go to trial on Oct. 31, two weeks after the election, charged with one count of public mischief contrary to Section 140(2) of the Criminal Code. He is being defended by Richard Peck, QC.
The charge stems from an encounter on Sept. 4, 2021 between himself and a group that was gathering petition signatures outside the South Point Save-On-Foods store in South Surrey for a referendum on the policing transition. The mayor claimed a car ran over his foot.
McCallum appears to be sheltered under the Surrey’s Officer and Indemnification By-law. In January, Rob Costanzo, general manager of corporate services for the City of Surrey, said the city (meaning taxpayers) “must indemnify its municipal officials (which includes Council Members and the Mayor), for legal fees to defend a prosecution in connection with the exercise or intended exercise of the official’s duties or functions.”
Harry Bains – not the MLA – is a lawyer and Surrey Connect council candidate. “If the mayor was shopping for his groceries on personal time on a Saturday, why is this being called city business?” Bains asks in the press release, which states that Surrey Connect pledges, if elected, to “conduct a full investigation of how the city decided to pay for the mayor’s expenses.”
In response, McCallum told the Now-Leader on Tuesday that the “city has a bylaw that covers legal costs for Mayor and Council, this bylaw has been in place for Mayor and Council’s for decades. The legal fees for the Mayor and Council including Brenda Locke’s recent legal fees were covered under this bylaw.”
Locke maintains her situation and McCallum’s is like comparing apples to oranges.
“No, that’s a different bylaw,” she said. “I had legal fees because a councillor went after me and I would tell you, I would love to tell you but I can’t, went after me because I said the road went through Bear Creek Park,” she said, in reference to the controversy surrounding the Safe Surrey Coalition majority on council’s decision to put in a road at the southern end of the park to link 140 Street with King George Boulevard.
“I’m not even kidding you. It was with the ethics commissioner but that was quite different. That’s because somebody came after me, it wasn’t because I went after them.”
Locke said she can’t name the councillor. “I’d love to tell you because I’m so angry about it because she didn’t want her name exposed. And so the ethics commissioner said I can talk about my situation, I cannot talk about hers, which I find outrageous. I that’s why I’ve talked about the ethics commissioner cannot be weaponized. I said because the road was going through Bear Creek…she said that wasn’t an accurate portrayal of what was happening with the road.”
Locke said her matter is different from McCallum’s as the bylaw talks about using the legislation as a shield. “I can protect myself; nobody charged at McCallum, he got charged criminally, that’s a completely different, different situation. There was nobody that went after him and they use that language, whether it’s a shield or a sword, and in my case it was a shield.”
“The point is that he was there on personal, not city business and so that’s the flaw in this. So my point is I am going to get our legal team to go after him for every nickel.”