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Surrey taxpayers paid $316K to law firm that defended McCallum in public mischief case

Former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum, represented by Peck and Company Barristers, was acquitted of public mischief
The Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign rallies outside Surrey provincial court in 2022 as Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum faced a public mischief charge. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

The City of Surrey’s Statement of Financial Information for 2022 indicates $316,663.50 was paid by taxpayers to Peck and Company Barristers, the law firm that successfully defended former Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum against a charge of public mischief in Surrey provincial court last year.

You’ll find the line on page 110 of a 121-page corporate report by Surrey’ general manager of finance Kam Grewal that came before council for consideration on June 19, under Schedule of Payments for Provision of Goods and/or Services.

Leading up to McCallum’s trial, which got underway on Oct. 31, 2022, numerous residents and some rival council members slammed the former mayor’s legal bills being paid by taxpayers in accordance with the Surrey’s Officer and Indemnification By-Law.

Coun. Linda Annis issued a press release before the trial, in which she stated, “It is ridiculous that the mayor gets to pick his attorney with no thought to the actual cost, and no accountability to the taxpayers who are paying the bill, regardless of the amount.”

His legal team was comprised of Richard Peck – considered to be one of Canada’s top criminal defence lawyers – as well as Eric Gottardi and Lee Vandergust.

During her election campaign to replace McCallum as mayor, which she accomplished two weeks before his trial began, Brenda Locke vowed to make McCallum pay back every cent if she got elected. “We are coming for you to repay every dime,” Locke warned McCallum in a Now-Leader story published Sept. 27, 2022.

READ ALSO FOCUS: Surrey mayor’s legal bill ramifications riling residents

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READ ALSO: Former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum found not guilty of public mischief

READ ALSO: City of Surrey payroll more than $215M in base salaries in 2022 for staff paid more than $75K

But Locke confirmed Monday that this is not going to happen, on account of McCallum being found not guilty.

“Well, him getting acquitted changed everything and so I did check with our legal about what we could do and of course the fact that he is off, the judge determined that we was acquitted, we are where we are,” she told the Now-Leader. “There will be no ability for us to go after him for his legal costs.”

The Now-Leader has reached out to McCallum for comment.

Former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum talks to media after being found not guilty of public mischief Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (Photo: Anna Burns)
Former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum talks to media after being found not guilty of public mischief Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (Photo: Anna Burns)

McCallum, 78, was charged with one count of public mischief contrary to Section 140(2) of the Criminal Code, stemming from an encounter on Sept. 4, 2021 between himself and a group of volunteers that was gathering petition signatures outside the South Point Save-On-Foods store in South Surrey for a referendum on the policing transition.

Judge Reginald Harris on Nov. 21, 2022 found McCallum not guilty.

Following the verdict, McCallum read out a short statement, at the courthouse entrance, in which he understandably said he was “pleased with the decision,” thanked his legal team for “their tremendous efforts in this case,” and gave a “special thanks” to his family for their support and understanding. “I appreciate also the sensitivity of the media in covering my case, and to the people of Surrey, I love you, I love all of you.”

He did not take questions.

After a 13-year break from the mayor’s chair, which he occupied from 1996 to 2005, McCallum was sworn in on Nov. 5, 2018 for his fourth term as Surrey’s mayor, this time under the Safe Surrey Coalition banner. Locke, of Surrey Connect, defeated him for the mayor’s seat in the Oct. 15, 2022 election by 973 votes.

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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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