City of Surrey sues former planner

Documents allege funds were misappropriated to buy $600,000 Delta home

Former City of Surrey planner Akonyu Akolo

Surrey has launched legal action against a former city planner who allegedly misappropriated funds to buy a home in Delta.

Legal documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court on April 16, 2010 outline a string of claims against former planner Akonyu Akolo, who was in charge of South Surrey developments for the City of Surrey.

A writ of summons obtained by The Leader accuse Akolo of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, fraud, deceit and misappropriation and conversion of funds.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Akolo, a Ugandan with his master’s degree in planning from UBC, was in charge of area planning and development for South Surrey.

It is not believed any other Surrey staff were involved in the alleged misappropriation.

Akolo was fired when the allegations were brought forward by a developer regarding a scheme he felt was inappropriate.

Akolo did not return repeated Leader calls to his home and cellphone Wednesday.

The city alleges Akolo used the city’s money in the purchase of a house on Chateau Wynd in North Delta with an assessed value of $624,000, according to a CBC report. Surrey has placed a notice of pending litigation on the title to Akolo’s home.

Surrey said in its claim that it is seeking general damages, special damages and punitive damages from Akolo.

It is not clear whether a civil writ has been served on Akolo.

On April 15, 2010, the day before the civil documents were filed in court, Surrey RCMP announced they had started a criminal investigation after receiving information from the City of Surrey regarding one of its employees.

RCMP Cpl. Drew Grainger said Wednesday the investigation is sensitive, and that charges are being discussed with Crown counsel.

It is unclear how long it will take to find out whether charges will be approved.

Mayor Dianne Watts said the city has set up several preventative measures.

“We have an internal auditor, we’ve changed some of our processes, we had KPMG do a forensic audit and any loopholes that were existing have now been closed,” Watts told The Leader.

It’s unusual for a civil action to precede criminal charges, but Watts said she wanted all bases covered.

“We came at it two ways,” Watts said. “One was to ensure we would have every opportunity to recoup any losses. And as well, a criminal investigation for the alleged conduct of that employee.”

Watts said she believes the city’s losses do not exceed the value of the $624,000 home.