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Surrey mayor threatens to call for inquiry into policing transition after Farnworth’s ultimatum

Farnworth issues ultimatum to see city report by 1 p.m. Monday or he’ll be ‘forced to make a determination about what is necessary for safe and effective policing without it’
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke. (File photo)

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke is threatening to call for an inquiry Monday night into the city’s policing transition debacle after discord between herself and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth went from somewhat heated to volcanic on Monday morning.

“Shame on Mike Farnworth,” Locke told the Now-Leader, in response to an ultimatum the solicitor general issued June 19 to the City of Surrey that if he doesn’t see a corporate report related to Surrey’s policing issue by 1 p.m. today he will be “forced to make a determination about what is necessary for safe and effective policing without it.”

“It is critical that I receive this report,” Farnworth said. “Now is not the time to play games. The safety of people in Surrey is too important.”

“Ministry officials have advised the city that I need this report by 1 p.m. today to review it, or I will be forced to make a determination about what is necessary for safe and effective policing without it,” he warned.

Locke is livid.

“He has to be very careful – you know what may well happen, and we may well see happen tonight, because I’ve heard some of council talking about it, and that is to have an inquiry about what went so wrong. If you remember back four and a half years ago, this has not been appropriate, there has not been due process for the last long time.

“We are trying to put due process at the back end of a decision but regardless, this was the same minister that was there but he’s had five directors of police services in the meantime.”

READ ALSO: ‘Extremely disappointed’ Surrey Police Service chief says it’s not done deal yet

READ ALSO: Surrey RCMP ‘fully prepared and ready to move forward’ as police force, top cop says

READ ALSO: Surrey decides to keep RCMP, but Locke mum on how vote went down

Locke slammed Farnworth for “never, ever” returning her phone calls. “I phoned him after the meeting because at that point we didn’t even know the outcome of the decision. I phoned him, I phoned Eby, they both told me they would not talk to me until they got the report. That’s not their report, it’s not their authority.”

The mayor said it was her authority to call a meeting to make a decision, which she did this past Thursday, in which council voted in-camera to retain the RCMP as the city’s police of jurisdiction rather than forge ahead with the Surrey Police Service.

“It was Mr. Farnworth who said Surrey council had to hurry up and make the decision so I called the meeting to make a decision and then they said but only make it if it’s the decision I want you to make. Well that’s not how it works. He gave us two options, we made a decision based on our information. Not his information, the City of Surrey’s information. So until he understands that under the Community Charter I have a responsibility, and a requirement and an authority, he is actually declaring war on the city of Surrey. I’m appalled at the behavior of this solicitor general, I am shocked that the premier is going along with it.”

As for the June 15 closed-session vote, Locke said, Farnworth had put two options before council, A and B, “and we were voting on A or B.”

“That corporate report is not for the minister. That corporate report is not for him to tell us what information he wants us to have, it’s for us to say what to say what our staff find out for us. We’re on the ground, he’s not, he’s in Victoria, he doesn’t know Surrey – we know Surrey. We voted on what we know.”

Farnworth wrote in his statement released Monday that as the solicitor general he needs to review the city’s plan to ensure it meets the requirements for safe and effective policing. “I have been very clear about this,” he stressed.

“I became concerned on Wednesday when I learned city staff were preparing to present a report to city council about future policing in Surrey that had not been shared with the Province. Unfortunately, I also learned that city staff were directed to not provide it to my ministry officials.

“I asked the mayor to share the report and wait to hold a vote until we could agree on what was safest for people in Surrey, based on the requirements for adequate and effective policing.

“Instead, on Thursday, the city council voted on the report before the Province had seen it and before I had the chance to determine if it will ensure safe and effective policing.

“The city has since been delaying giving us the report to review. First, it was promised by noon Friday, then by end of day Friday. My staff requested the report throughout the weekend. We have still received nothing.”

READ ALSO: Farnworth chides Surrey for not sharing report prior to policing vote

Locke wouldn’t reveal the breakdown of the vote but said it could be released if council passed a motion to that end.

“We can’t even say that,” she said. “We can’t say anything out of closed. That’s the one thing that’s very clear, we cannot release information out of closed unless there’s a motion to do so. There was a motion for me to release information out of closed; I can tell you that I’m very happy with the vote that came to us, I can tell you that, but I can’t tell you what it was. We may make that determination, we can make a vote to do that, but to be frank, we were trying get through a process to do it as fast as we could at the directive of this solicitor general saying hurry up and make a decision.

“There was a lot of pressure and I kept saying we will have it done by the end of June and then when we do it by the end of June, because it’s not the information or it’s not the decision this solicitor general wants, then he gets upset about it and he starts playing these games. The games are not our games, the games are on the provincial government. And so am I angry? I’m pretty angry.”

Locke said the vote was done in closed because council signed non-disclosure agreements at the provincial government’s request, in order to receive an unredacted report Farnworth produced on April 28 containing his recommendation that Surrey should forge ahead with the Surrey Police Service.

“I said we don’t want to sign these NDAs because it restricts us so much about what we can say. I wanted from the get-go we wanted to be transparent about this process but he obviously didn’t want that.”

Meantime, the Surrey Police Union called on Surrey Connect Coun. Rob Stuff, a former Surrey Mountie, to recuse himself from voting on the policing decision or be disqualified from doing so until the City of Surrey Ethics Commissioner finalizes a decision on a complaint against him.

In February the union filed a complaint with the commissioner alleging conflict-of-interest on Stutt’s part. Its president Rob Stewart issued a statement charging that Stutt voted to end the transition to Surrey Police Service from the Surrey RCMP without disclosing that his son is employed by the Surrey RCMP and his daughter is seconded from the City of Surrey and assigned to the RCMP. Nor did Stutt recuse himself, Steward stated.

Surrey Connect promised during its election campaign to bring transparency to city hall but it’s not known if Stutt voted, and if he did, how he voted during Thursday’s closed meeting.

“What I will say to you is, the vote on, I mean you can look at the vote that happened on December I can’t remember, that vote was 6-3,” Locke said. “I can’t tell you about the issue around Rob Stutt and quite frankly nobody should, that is something between the ethics commissioner and councillor Stutt and the determination of that will be in the public at some point.”

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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