Councillor Steven Pettigrew says he is “concerned about democracy in our city right now” after Mayor Doug McCallum threatened to kick him out of Monday night’s council meeting.
It happened during a heated exchange in which the mayor repeatedly asked Pettigrew to sit down as the councillor attempted to ask a question.
“Councillor Pettigrew, if I have to, I will ask you to leave this council chambers,” said the mayor, his voice raised, after repeating a similar comment several times. “You’re interrupting this meeting and we are not going to put up with it. I will order you out of this council chamber if you don’t sit down right now.”
Tuesday morning, Pettigrew told the Now-Leader “there were many things done last night that I believe were in violation of the Community Charter and our city procedural bylaws. These are issues that need to be addressed by staff and by people that are well versed in legislative law.”
“I believe that staff is working on that,” Pettigrew added. “Part of the job is being able to speak on behalf of the people, and I’m not being permitted to speak so I do have grave concerns that the Community Charter and city procedural bylaws are not being followed.”
The terse exchange between the two politicians is the latest of several in council chambers. In at least two other instances, McCallum has denied Pettigrew’s motions – those two related to allowing the public to see the city’s policing transition report prior to it being sent to the provincial government.
Then, the mayor shot Pettigrew’s attempts down a second time in early May at the Public Safety Committee meeting.
“We’ve had many closed meetings, and I can’t talk about what happens in closed meeting, but I’m not happy with that’s going on in closed meetings either,” he said Tuesday morning.
In this latest exchange, Pettigrew attempted to ask a question at the outset of Monday night’s council meeting, but the mayor told Pettigrew he’d “have to wait,” telling him he was asking his question at the wrong time in the meeting. Council was in the section of the meeting in which they were adopting minutes.
“Actually, at this point of information, it just will take a moment and I do have the floor on this right now,” said Pettigrew.
“No, I’m sorry, we’re in adoption of the minutes,” replied the mayor.
Pettigrew, still standing, attempted to ask his question several more times as the mayor continued with the meeting.
“My question, as it is the discretion of the chair, I would like to know if members will be using the Roberts Rule of Order during council meetings,” said Pettigrew, referring to a guide for conducting meetings and making decisions as a group.
The mayor replied saying the rules “have been established by the city clerk and by councils, and have been the same as long as I’ve been on council. So those are the rules that we follow.”
At that point, Pettigrew began to speak again, but he was cut off by the mayor.
“Councillor Pettigrew, you’ve made your motion. I am going to rule you out of order and please sit down or I will ask you to leave. You’re interrupting this council meeting.”
Pettigrew continued to challenge the mayor, asking what piece of legislation he was using to rule him out of order.
“This is your last warning, I’m going to ask you leave in a minute,” the mayor said.
“I’m asking what legislative piece: Are you using the Charter? Are you using council procedures? You’re not using Roberts Rules of Order. What are you using to rule me out of order?” Pettigrew asked.
His question went unanswered, and the back and forth continued.
Pettigrew conceded, after about six minutes from first standing up to ask his question, saying “I guess that would be a no.”
“So I guess I will not be reading my questions, because because obviously the mayor is not allowing me to do that.”
At the end of the hour-long meeting, the drama continued when Pettigrew again tried to speak.
The mayor once more told Pettigrew he was out of order.
“I have advised council that if anyone wants to do a notice or motion or other business, it’s very clear they are to come to the chairman first and talk to the chairman if they want that,” said the mayor.
At the same time, Pettigrew continued to challenge the mayor, asking staff if the city bylaw was being violated.
“Is this bylaw enforced or is it not?”
The meeting was then adjourned.
McCallum has not responded to a request for comment.
Asked if the city was undertaking a review of any potential violations, Surrey City Clerk Jennifer Ficocelli told the Now-Leader in an email Tuesday that “we are working to clarify the rules and processes that are in place.”