The union representing the Surrey Police Service has filed an ethics complaint against Coun. Rob Stutt, who is a member of mayor Brenda Locke’s majority Surrey Connect party.
The SPS union says it has recently confirmed that two of the councillor's adult children work for the Surrey RCMP.
Union spokesperson Ryan Buhrig said because Stutt has recently cast pivotal votes on the future of the policing transition in Surrey, that constitutes a conflict of interest and a breach of the Surrey council code of conduct.
“Under the code of conduct, city councillors have to rigorously avoid the perception of conflicts of interest and bias, and they can’t try to obtain a benefit for a family member. So we do believe councillor Stutt violated these bylaws,” said Buhrig, adding “Moving forward, we don’t believe that councillor Stutt should have involvement regarding policing decisions for the city.”
Surrey First Coun. Linda Annis says she was shocked to learn Stutt had family members working for the RCMP.
“It absolutely should go through to the ethics commissioner for their review and to determine whether or not there is a conflict of interest,” said Annis.
She added for the new mayor and council, ethics should be first and foremost. “We have to be transparent and we have to engage with the public. It’s absolutely critical. There has been lots of concern that this hasn’t happened in the past and we need to do better,” Annis said.
She said she’s withholding judgment on Stutt until the ethics commissioner investigates the allegations.
“I think that the first thing we need to do is ascertain whether or not Coun. Stutt was in conflict. I think that is step number 1, and then we need to decide where to go from there,” Annis said.
CTV News reached out to Stutt by email, but he did not reply.
Mayor Brenda Locke’s media team said she wasn’t available for an on-camera interview, but provided a written statement saying the city is currently in the process of hiring an independent ethics commissioner, which is a position she reinstated.
“I have full confidence in Councillor Stutt and will not be commenting further while the complaint is active,” Locke’s statement concluded.
Buhrig said both Locke and Stutt, who ran on a platform of ethics and transparency, should be willing to publicly answer questions about the union’s complaint.
“I think there are some very hard questions that need to get posed to mayor and council regarding this. I can’t speculate on whether the mayor knew about this conflict, but I definitely think those questions need to be posed,” said Buhrig.
“Policing is a major issue for the residents of Surrey, and they need to be confident these decisions are being made above board,” he said.
The union insists the ethics complaint is not political and wasn’t filed to influence the province’s upcoming decision on whether Surrey will keep the RCMP, or complete the transition to a municipal police service.
The solicitor general is expected to make the final call on that in the coming weeks.