Surrey’s embattled Mayor Doug McCallum is facing renewed demands to step aside from his mayoral duties as well as continuing on as chairman of the police board in light of claims the board asked him to step down while his criminal public mischief charge is still before the courts.
Global News reported Monday that according to unnamed sources, McCallum refused to step down from his position on the Surrey Police Board when it asked him to after he was charged on Dec. 10, 2021. His trial is set for Oct. 31, two weeks after the Oct. 15 civic election in which he intends to run for a second consecutive term as mayor. A pre-trial conference has been set for Aug. 31 in Surrey provincial court.
Melissa Granum, executive director of Surrey Police Board, told the Now-Leader on Tuesday that she is “unfortunately” unable to comment “on what the board discusses in-camera.”
Asked if she’s concerned about leaks from within the Surrey Police Board, Granum said she “can’t comment on that. This whole project we’ve … when you look at what’s going on, there’s people who are doing that. But I’m quite confident in my board.”
Board members could not be reached for comment by deadline Tuesday.
McCallum declined to comment.
He is charged with one count of public mischief contrary to Section 140(2) of the Criminal Code, stemming from an encounter last September between himself and a group that was gathering petition signatures outside the South Point Save-On-Foods store in South Surrey for a referendum on the policing transition. The mayor claimed a car ran over his foot.
Debbie Johnstone, the driver, told the Now-Leader on Tuesday she’s “absolutely” innocent of the mayor’s accusations and will have more to say once the court case is done.
“I just re-iterate my innocence,” she said.
Meantime, Ivan Scott, of Keep the RCMP in Surrey, said the SPS board “should step down as a group, because how can they have a person that’s being charged criminally to run a thing that’s supposed to be anti-criminal?”
He said it’s “very disconcerting that this would happen, and they would take the idea that, you know, it’s just business as usual. Really horrible, I’m really, really disappointed in them.”
The provincial government’s Bill 20, the Municipal Statutes Amendment Act 2022, received third and final reading on May 3. After it receives Royal Assent, politicians charged with a crime will be required to take a leave of absence from the date they’re charged until legal proceedings are done.
“I have been advised by the government, the attorney general, that my case was before the law came in and so will not be affected by this particular law,” McCallum told city council on May 9.
City solicitor Philip Huynh said it’s his understanding Bill 20 does not have a retroactive effect, and “in other words it does not affect charges that were already in place before this bill becomes law.”
Recently, a Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act released a report that included 11 recommendations to “transform policing and community safety.” The 10-person all-party provincial committee included Surrey MLAs Garry Begg (NDP, Surrey-Guildford), Trevor Halford (Liberal, Surrey-White Rock) and Rachna Singh (NDP, Surrey-Green Timbers).
Among those recommendations is “ensuring municipal council representation on municipal police boards or committees, while not allowing the mayor to serve as board chair.”
“Unique to BC, the Police Act requires the mayor to act as the chair for the municipal police board which several local governments and police boards described as a source of tension and conflict,” the report states.
McCallum told the Now-Leader on April 28 that he agrees with the entire 96-page report released by the Police Act reform committee and “fully” supports the recommendation aimed at “ensuring municipal council representation on municipal police boards or committees, while not allowing the mayor to serve as board chair.”
Shortly after the report was released, McCallum remarked “It does bring up some feeling that person could be in a bit of a conflict doing both of them.
“It’s just the structure, the governance structure, isn’t right,” he said.
On May 23 Surrey Connect, a rival slate to McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition, renewed its call for him to step down pending the outcome of his criminal case.
“These allegations against this mayor are shocking and embarrassing,” said Surrey Coun. Jack Hundial, a former Surrey RCMP officer.
“They bring the reputation of Surrey, and particularly the reputation of Surrey city council, into significant disrepute. The residents of this city obviously deserve better than to have a mayor accused of lying to police to further his own political self-interest. And the residents of Surrey should not have to wait for changes in the law to force this mayor to do what is right. He should do the right thing. He should go and go now.”