Overtime used to reimburse Mounties' ticket costs for mayor's gala: complaint
VANCOUVER -- Langley RCMP members were reimbursed for the cost of attending the Langley City Mayor’s Gala with overtime as a plan put into an email by the officer in charge was set in motion, according to a complaint to the national police watchdog obtained by CTV News.
A member of the public claimed in that complaint that Supt. Murray Power put pressure on his members to attend the January event for charity as a favour to Mayor Val van den Broek — and then told them to bill the $150 per person cost to an unrelated police file.
“The instruction to members to recoup ticket costs by billing it as overtime on a different matter, essentially hiding the true nature of the financial transaction, is unethical at the very least,” the complaint says.
The document sheds more light on why the RCMP may have quietly “temporarily reassigned” Power, leaving a deputy in charge of the detachment in the meantime. The complaint is a series of allegations; none of its contents have been proven.
And it’s also another headache for the Langley City mayor, whose gala was already facing a probe from that city’s council over technically being an unsanctioned event that councillors worried had improperly used city logos.
Now, news that the donation may have come from this source has the charity that ultimately received $56,000 as a result of the gala, the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation, looking into what happened too.
The complaint also alleges that when asked about the costs by the council’s investigator, Power denied that the scheme was ever acted on, saying members “bore the cost of their own ticket."
“In essence, the members were attending the gala as a personal favour to Supt. Power or as a personal leisure activity, and then they were having their personal costs reimbursed by Supt. Power with public funds paid out under unrelated file codes as overtime costs,” the complaint says.
At first, the RCMP wouldn’t discuss the reasons for Powers’ reassignment, saying it was a private matter.
But after a CTV News story, an E Division spokesperson acknowledged there was an “internal process” underway that “will provide us the information to make any determination and take appropriate action.”
In order to find out what that process is, CTV News had to go all the way to Ottawa, asking Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s office about the probe.
The answer: an investigation to find out if anyone broke the RCMP’s Code of Conduct, carried out by RCMP staff.
But the allegations are serious enough that another police agency should be involved to preserve confidence and avoid conflicts of interest, said former solicitor-general Kash Heed.
“We have several independent municipal policing agencies. Take one of them and investigate it,” Heed told CTV News.
He said the RCMP should also be more transparent about its accounting to find out if this is an isolated incident. The delay between the gala in January, the complaint in June, and the reassignment of Power in mid-August suggests that Mounties are treating management differently than they might treat a lower-ranking officer facing the same allegation.
“You have to ask how often this occurs in the agency and whether it’s occurred previously,” Heed said. “They need to have proper accountable processes when taxpayer money is involved.”
Supt. Power didn’t respond to emails from CTV News.
A photo taken at the end of the gala that shows the mayor appearing to grab the breast of another party attendee while Power stands nearby was in good fun, the mayor told CTV News.
“I had the gala for my mom who died of breast cancer,” she said. “I had put my hand on (the other partygoer’s) boob to say, ‘Don’t hate boobs, hate cancer,’” van den Broek said.
“Everything we did was above board and we’re super proud of it,” she said.
Terra Scheer of the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation told CTV News that at this point, the charity is working under the assumption all the money was given in good faith.
The gala was raising money on behalf of the foundation, and no tax receipts were issued, she said.
Langley City Council’s report is expected to be released early next week.