A Surrey city council feels she’s being stymied by city hall in her quest to ascertain the legitimacy of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s controversial motion to ban seven people from council chambers during public hearings.
The Safe Surrey Coalition majority on city council passed a motion during a land use meeting on Sept. 19 designed to “protect the democratic process” by banning some speakers from attending public hearings in council chambers and to ensure “a safe and respectful environment” for council and staff.
A press release issued by the City of Surrey indicated certain individuals who have “repeatedly disrupted and verbally harassed” council and city staff during public hearings will now be “provided the opportunity” to submit questions and comments by writing.
Coun. Brenda Locke says she’s “absolutely not” satisfied with the response she received at the outset of council’s Sept. 27 meeting after indicating she would not support adoption of the minutes from the Sept. 19 land use meeting because of the ban, which was initiated by the mayor and read out by Coun. Laurie Guerra.
“I question the process that this issue was even allowed to be considered,” Locke told council.
“I recognize that that’s not in our procedure bylaws but that they are actually silent on the issue of making a motion by proxy,” Locke said, adding that “best practices would advise” that the person chairing the meeting, in this case McCallum, would step down while making the motion.
Locke asked why the motion was considered during the land use meeting when the reason it came to council concerned alleged comments made during public hearings. Some council members were “caught blind-sided” by it, she said.
She asked the city’s lawyer when a legal opinion is provided, is it provided to all of council?
“Certainly if there was one, I have not seen it,” Locke said. She also city staff if anyone on staff was harassed and if so, to provide documentation that corroborates it.
City Clerk Jennifer Ficocelli told council the motion was added to the land use agenda “and council supported that unanimously.”
“Under those conditions, when an item is supported to be added to the agenda it does come under other business, and it is dealt with at that evening. So that is how that item was added and that’s how it got the ability to be added to the agenda and considered at the same evening,” Ficocelli said. “Why was it at land use? That was the decision of the council member who brought it forward and council supported that.”
Philip Huynh, Surrey’s city solicitor and director of legal services, told Locke that any legal opinion, “and the fact advice was given,” is a matter of privilege and he is not in a position to speak to it in a public forum.
“It is something that council is entitled to if council decides to either obtain anything or have that discussion in an open forum, that’s up to council to decide, it’s not up to staff to discuss privileged matters in an open council, but council is free, if council wishes, for example, to pass a resolution to have it discussed in open,” he said.
The Safe Surrey Coalition majority – Mayor Doug McCallum and councillors Laurie Guerra, Doug Elford, Mandeep Nagra and Allison Patton – voted to approve the land use meeting minutes and councillors Locke, Jack Hundial, Linda Annis and Steven Pettigrew voting against this.
“I didn’t get any answers to the questions I’ve asked,” Locke told the Now-Leader on Thursday. “I mean, some of the technical ones from the clerk maybe but not the legal part at all, we still don’t know, we haven’t seen, we don’t even know if there was in fact a legal opinion and we certainly haven’t seen it if there was.”
“I’m going to put it to them in writing once more,” she said, adding she’s sought advise on the matter from her own lawyer. “We have to have that information. It’s important, if there’s a legal opinion, that every member of council knows the legal opinion or knows if there is any legal opinion, and right now we don’t,” Locke said.
Meantime Ivan Scott, who issued a press release saying he was one of the seven who’ve been banned along with some other members of his group, Keep the RCMP in Surrey, have sought legal advice.
“We’re looking at it very carefully, we’ve got somebody on board, and we’re just waiting to put everything, all our ducks in a row and then we’re going to pull the trigger,” Scott told the Now-Leader on Monday night.