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Surrey ethics commissioner: Councillor weighed in on policing decision, despite conflict of interest

Surrey Coun. Rob Stutt was found to be in a conflict of interest during a vote on retaining the RCMP, according to the city’s ethics commissioner.

The ethics commissioner says it received a complaint on February 27, 2023 about the vote that happened on November 14, 2022.

At the time of the vote, one of Stutt’s children was an active member of the Surrey RCMP, while another child was employed by the city’s RCMP Support Services, according to the report.

“While Councillor Stutt had acted in good faith, and had participated in the meeting with the intention of fulfilling a promise he made to voters during the 2022 city council election, the potential for bias arising from a personal interest in a matter is determined objectively, from the point of view of a reasonably well-informed person,” the report reads.

The Surrey Police Union filed the complaint, and spokesperson Ryan Buhrig told CTV News the union feels their concerns have been heard.

“I definitely would say that it validated our concerns and that we're satisfied with the outcome from the Ethics Commissioner,” Ruhrig said.

The findings now put the policing saga back on the table.

According to some of the other councillors, if Stutt had not voted, the motion would have failed with a 4-4 vote.

“This egregious act by Councillor Stutt and the willful negligence of Mayor Locke are an affront to the principles that govern our council. The hardworking taxpayers of Surrey deserve better, and we will not rest until SPS becomes the police of jurisdiction,” said Councillor Doug Elford in a press release.

In a statement, Stutt said his son had been actively seeking to transfer from the Surrey RCMP detachment before the 2022 municipal election and believed this would’ve eased any perception of conflict.

“I am extremely proud of the career paths that both of my children, aged 37 and 35, have chosen… it is their career path, and has no relevance on my moral compass. I remain committed to the public safety of the citizens of Surrey,” he wrote.

He went on to say the vote in November “did not accomplish anything” and he said the latest vote, which happened behind closed doors last Thursday, was “the relevant vote,” in which council voted 6-3 to keep the RCMP.

Mayor Brenda Locke highlighted how the commissioner did not make any recommendations, as Stutt’s son is no longer with the Surrey RCMP.

“I am disappointed that misinformation continues to be spread in a partisan campaign to discredit certain members of Council and the Surrey RCMP,” Locke wrote in a statement. “In his report, the Ethics Commissioner found that Councillor Stutt acted in good faith and was fulfilling a promise he made to voters.”

It has been costly to run both the RCMP and Surrey Police Service at the same time.

Councillor Linda Annis said the bill keeps on going up as a decision on which force should police Surrey has taken awhile to finalize.

“This delay is costing the taxpayers of Surrey $8 million each and every month. And if you go back to November when we took that vote, you know, that's almost $50 million of taxpayers money,” she told CTV News.

Despite last week’s decision, Buhrig said SPS members are still on the job.

“We're looking forward. We're not looking back. So we're anxiously awaiting the final decision from the minister and we're hoping that we are able to stay in this community for the long term,” he said.

B.C. Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth had previously recommended the city continue with the transition to the SPS.

Buhrig and some councillors are still holding out hope for Farnworth’s decision.

In a statement to CTV News, Farnworth said “staff is reviewing the city’s corporate report to make sure the requirements identified to keep people safe in Surrey and across B.C. are met.” Top Stories

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