Some kind of showdown looms in Calgary’s city hall on Monday when a new mayor vows she will not swear in a newly re-elected councilor in the wake of revelations that he was disciplined as a police officer years ago for touching a 16-year-old. . old.
The controversy has raised questions about what can be done about a councilman who experts say faces the prospect of being a political “outcast” but refuses to resign.
Just days before this week’s municipal elections in Alberta, CBC reported that Coun. Sean Chu, who spent years as a Calgary police officer, was found “guilty of misconduct” for touching the girl’s leg under a table in 1997.. The Star has not independently confirmed the report. Through his lawyer, the councilor has denied knowing that the teenager was a minor at the time.
Chu was 34 at the time and the now-adult girl involved allegedly told CBC that she had been sexually assaulted in her home.
In the wake of the story, nearly everyone who will be on Calgary’s next council has called for Chu to step down, and the political backlash has gone beyond the municipal level.
Prime Minister Jason Kenney, along with Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver, have also said Chu should resign if the allegations are true.
Calgary Mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek has said she will not take him under oath on Monday, calling the situation “disturbing” and adding that he should “absolutely resign.”
Not being sworn in by Gondek doesn’t materially amount to much, but it is symbolic. Chu will remain a city councilor, although many believe that he will not be effective following the reports.
This week, Chu told reporters that he would not resign.
He maintained that the 1997 incident had undergone a “thorough” investigation and resulted in a warning letter that remained on his file for several years.
“I consider that the matter has been investigated, a sanction applied and fulfilled and the incident now resolved,” he said.
Chu said that when he was on duty and taking a tour, he met the girl at a licensed establishment (the drinking age is 18) and agreed to return after his shift.
He did so, dressed in civilian clothes, and then they agreed to go home, Chu said. They “got involved in some consensual touches,” she said, adding that she didn’t want to continue at one point and therefore took her home.
“I want to apologize to the woman,” he said. “It was never my intention to cause any harm.”
But Chu faces an uphill battle and a hostile group of Calgary city councilors and it is unclear whether the province will try, or can, try to remove him as representative.
“He’s going to be an outcast” on the council if he stays, said Lori Williams, a professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University.
Most will not want to put him on committees and will not want to work with him, even though collaboration and getting votes are crucial in city politics, Williams said.
Some have suggested that the provincial government simply remove Chu, but the province says it cannot just fire the councilors.
Williams said there is a possibility that he could do so if he conducts an investigation first, though he said the fact that the provincial government removes elected council members increases the possibility that the pass will be abused in the future.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “This is uncharted territory.”
If Chu stays for the next four years, Williams said, she believes she will keep a low profile.
“That will mean that he cannot effectively represent the people of District 4,” in his opinion, he said.
Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver issued a statement this week calling the situation “very serious.” However, McIver said it is unclear whether the province has the power to launch an investigation and potentially remove Chu, given that he was not convicted of a crime.
“I have requested an outside and independent legal advisor to review the legislation and provide expert advice on what action, if any, the minister of municipal affairs can legally take,” McIver said.
Meanwhile, a protest against Chu is expected Sunday at Calgary City Hall.