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Surrey Police Union lodges conflict-of-interest complaint against city councillor

Complaint filed with Office of the Ethics Commissioner against Councillor Rob Stutt
A view of Surrey City Hall. (File photo)

The Surrey Police Union filed a complaint Monday morning with the city’s Office of the Ethics Commissioner alleging conflict of interest on the part of Surrey Connect Councillor Rob Stutt.

Union president Rob Stewart issued a statement Monday charging that Stutt, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, has 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.

The Now-Leader reached out to Stutt and Mayor Brenda Locke for comment. The City of Surrey’s communications manager, Oliver Lum, provided an emailed statement attributed to Locke.

“I have full confidence in Councillor Stutt and will not be commenting further while this complaint is active,” the statement reads.

Stewart said that on Nov. 14, 2022, Stutt voted in support of a motion to end the transition with the final vote tally being 5-4. On Jan. 30, 2023, he added, Locke appointed Stutt chairman of the Public Safety Committee, “which she claims will offer a new standard for accountability and oversight over the RCMP should it remain as Surrey’s Police of Jurisdiction.

“Throughout the public discourse prior and subsequent to this motion, Councillor Stutt has never disclosed that the RCMP employs his son in the Surrey Detachment, nor has he ever declared that his daughter is assigned to the RCMP via secondment from the City of Surrey,” Stewart’s statement reads. “Referencing the Code of Conduct, Mr. Stutt failed to notify the Chair of all City Council meetings (Mayor Brenda Locke) and recuse himself from participation in the debate and vote on the aforementioned motion.”

The Surrey Police Union president noted that it is “critical” elected officials presiding over the transition are “above reproach” considering that the future of policing in the city “will impact the public safety of residents for generations to come.”

Rob Stutt poses for a photo with his Harley in his garage in Surrey on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. (Photo: Anna Burns)
Rob Stutt poses for a photo with his Harley in his garage in Surrey on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. (Photo: Anna Burns)

Stewart also noted in his written statement, emailed to the Now-Leader, that Locke during the Nov. 7, 2022 city council meeting announced she’s bringing back the Office of the Ethics Commissioner to “help protect the integrity of the city and give residents a sense that there is oversight in decision-making.”

He cited City of Surrey Council Code of Conduct Bylaw, 2020, No. 20020, noting it “clearly outlines the parameters, rules and expected protocol for City Council Members.

Specifically, Section 20, that “[a] Council Member shall rigorously avoid situations which may result in claims of pecuniary interest, conflict of interest or bias” and Section 32, that “[a] Council Member shall not attempt to obtain a benefit from the City for a Family Member.”

READ ALSO: Surrey council brings Public Safety Committee back

The SPU has submitted a formal request to the Office of the Surrey Ethics Commissioner to investigate Stutt’s alleged breach of the City of Surrey’s rules around conflict of interest. “This is essential to ensure the sanctity of all decision-making surrounding Surrey’s policing future,” Stewart said.

“In spite of the ongoing search by Surrey City Council for a new Ethics Commissioner, SPU trusts that this request will still receive the attention it deserves considering the magnitude and timely nature of the matter in question. SPU hopes that today’s (February 27, 2023) Ethics Commissioner Selection Committee meeting will help to expedite this investigation.

“Surrey residents’ faith in public safety is essential to upholding the quality of life within our city. SPU is advancing this request in support of maintaining and enhancing public trust,” Stewart concluded.

Meantime, Locke noted in her statement that the city is in “advanced stages” of hiring a new ethics commissioner and it’s expected the position will be filled within 30 days.

“The hiring committee, which includes members of the public, will recommend a shortlist of three candidates for council’s consideration and approval,” she explained. “Complaints to the Ethics Commissioner are treated equally and, under my watch, the commissioner will have full independence in their investigation without interference from any member of council. It is important to note that there would not be an Ethics Commissioner if not for my commitment to reinstate the position that was eliminated by the previous city council.”

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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