Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke threatened to call for an inquiry into the city’s policing transition debacle after discord between herself and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth went from somewhat heated to volcanic on Monday morning.
“Shame on Mike Farnworth,” Locke told the Now-Leader, in response to an ultimatum the solicitor general issued June 19 to the City of Surrey that if he didn’t see a corporate report related to Surrey’s policing issue by 1 p.m. that same day he would be “forced to make a determination about what is necessary for safe and effective policing without it.”
“It is critical that I receive this report,” Farnworth said. “Now is not the time to play games. The safety of people in Surrey is too important.”
“Ministry officials have advised the city that I need this report by 1 p.m. today to review it, or I will be forced to make a determination about what is necessary for safe and effective policing without it,” he warned.
Locke was livid.
“He has to be very careful – you know what may well happen, and we may well see happen tonight, because I’ve heard some of council talking about it, and that is to have an inquiry about what went so wrong,” Locke said. “If you remember back four and a half years ago, this has not been appropriate, there has not been due process for the last long time.
“We are trying to put due process at the back end of a decision but regardless, this was the same minister that was there but he’s had five directors of police services in the meantime.”
There was no talk about an inquiry at Monday night’s council meeting, however.
During a presser at city hall Monday morning, Locke said Farnworth is bullying her and accused him of misogyny.
“I have never used the gender card, but in this case I absolutely think there is misogyny going on, no doubt in my mind,” she told reporters.
At Monday night’s meeting, Locke said she’s “disappointed to hear both minister Farnworth and premier Eby when they say there are public concerns in Surrey. There are not. To make such a statement, to me, is irresponsible and I ask them to stop fear-mongering. The fact is, the path the city has chosen for policing is the safest and most effective option for Surrey. If the minister’s concern is the SPS walking off the job, which is a total dereliction of their duties as peace officers, then he should make his concerns directly to the Surrey Police Board and the Surrey police chief.”
Earlier on Monday, Locke slammed Farnworth for “never, ever” returning her phone calls.
“I phoned him after the meeting because at that point we didn’t even know the outcome of the decision. I phoned him, I phoned Eby, they both told me they would not talk to me until they got the report.
“That’s not their report, it’s not their authority.”
The mayor said it was her authority to call a meeting to make a decision. On June 15, council voted 6-3 during an in-camera meeting to retain the RCMP as the city’s police of jurisdiction rather than forge ahead with the Surrey Police Service.
“It was Mr. Farnworth who said Surrey council had to hurry up and make the decision so I called the meeting to make a decision and then they said but only make it if it’s the decision I want you to make,” she said.
“So until he understands that under the Community Charter I have a responsibility, and a requirement and an authority, he is actually declaring war on the City of Surrey. I’m appalled at the behavior of this solicitor general, I am shocked that the premier is going along with it.”
Farnworth wrote in his statement released Monday that as the solicitor general he needs to review the city’s plan to ensure it meets the requirements for safe and effective policing.
“I became concerned on Wednesday when I learned city staff were preparing to present a report to city council about future policing in Surrey that had not been shared with the province. Unfortunately, I also learned that city staff were directed to not provide it to my ministry officials.
“I asked the mayor to share the report and wait to hold a vote until we could agree on what was safest for people in Surrey, based on the requirements for adequate and effective policing.
“Instead, on Thursday, the city council voted on the report before the province had seen it and before I had the chance to determine if it will ensure safe and effective policing,” Farnworth continued.
“The city has since been delaying giving us the report to review. First, it was promised by noon Friday, then by end of day Friday. My staff requested the report throughout the weekend. We have still received nothing.”
Then, in yet another twist in this saga, by late Monday afternoon Farnworth had issued a second statement, this time indicating he had received Surrey’s report, that the city’s confidentiality agreement had been signed and that his staff are reviewing the city’s corporate report.
Later, at Monday night’s council meeting, Locke confirmed the report ultimately was provided to Farnworth “within two working days, which was significantly quicker than the nearly six months it took for us to get the information we had requested.”
Locke told the Now-Leader on Monday morning the vote was done in a session closed to the public because council signed non-disclosure agreements at the provincial government’s request, in order to receive an unredacted report that Farnworth produced on April 28 which contains his recommendation that Surrey should forge ahead with the Surrey Police Service.
“I said we don’t want to sign these NDAs because it restricts us so much about what we can say. I wanted from the get-go we wanted to be transparent about this process but he obviously didn’t want that,” Locke said. “There was a lot of pressure and I kept saying we will have it done by the end of June and then when we do it by the end of June, because it’s not the information or it’s not the decision this solicitor general wants, then he gets upset about it and he starts playing these games.”
Meantime, the Surrey Police Union called on Surrey Connect Coun. Rob Stuff, a former Surrey Mountie, to recuse himself from voting on policing or be disqualified from doing so until the City of Surrey Ethics Commissioner finalized a decision on a complaint against him.
In February the union filed a complaint with the commissioner alleging conflict-of-interest on Stutt’s part. Its president Rob Stewart charged that Stutt voted to end the transition to Surrey Police Service from the Surrey RCMP without disclosing that his son is employed by the Surrey RCMP and his daughter is seconded from the City of Surrey and assigned to the RCMP. Nor did Stutt recuse himself, Steward stated.
“I can’t tell you about the issue around Rob Stutt,” Locke said, “and quite frankly nobody should, that is something between the ethics commissioner and councillor Stutt and the determination of that will be in the public at some point.”
Stutt has not replied to requests for comment.