Many Surrey taxpayers are fuming at news they are picking up the bill for a high-profile, high-priced attorney as he defends Mayor Doug McCallum against a charge of public mischief.
For his part, McCallum doesn’t see what the big fuss is all about.
“A lot of mayors and councillors have their legal bills paid for by the city for different legal matters,” he told the Now-Leader Tuesday. “It’s pretty common for all cities, to be honest with you, that the legal bills are paid for anybody that’s a member of council, in most cities, if not all cities.”
Funny, that’s not what he said before.
Six years ago, he was very critical of a city decision to fund a civil court case involving then Coun. Tom Gill, who was sued by Surrey businessman Harjit Atwal over comments Gill made to the Surrey Leader about a violent 2010 incident involving a family member.
“I don’t think the taxpayers should be paying for that, because it doesn’t to me fall under ‘the performance or exercise of duties’ of the council,” McCallum told The Vancouver Sun in 2015.
McCallum’s charge stems from a confrontation at the South Point Save-On Foods on Sept. 4. He claimed he was there to buy groceries, which, to many, doesn’t fall under the “performance or exercise of duties” either.
But city bylaw 15912 states that councillors should have their legal costs covered if the case is “in connection with the exercise or intended exercise of the person’s powers or the performance or intended performance of the person’s duties or functions.”
Remember, when you’re a mayor, you’re not just mayor when you’re at city hall. It’s a 24/7 kind of gig.
Had McCallum kept that in mind and been more mayoral at the grocery store that day, we might have avoided this ugly mess altogether.