Taxpayers will pay the legal bill for Doug McCallum as he faces a public injury charge related to claims that he was hit by a car in September.
The city of Surrey confirmed by email Monday that it will pay for the mayor’s legal defense under the terms of its indemnity statute.
McCallum has hired one of Vancouver’s most expensive defense attorneys: Richard Peck, who also defended Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou from a US extradition request.
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“The city shouldn’t be paying its legal bills,” Coun said. Linda Annis on Monday.
“Doug admitted to himself that he was there on his personal time shopping … If we’re doing personal business, the city should never be responsible for our legal bills.”
McCallum was indicted on Dec. 10, following an investigation into his claims that someone ran over his foot in a Save-On-Foods parking lot during an altercation with opponents of the city’s police transition.
McCallum has declined to comment on the case as the matter is before the courts.
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Under the Canadian Penal Code, public mischief includes “making a false statement that accuses another person of committing a crime.”
Surrey town compensation statute Lets you pay some legal bills.
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However, it establishes that “the city will not pay any fine imposed as a result of the conviction of a municipal official for a crime that is not a crime of strict or absolute responsibility.”
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Kyla Lee, an attorney at Acumen Law in Vancouver, said that does not appear to apply to a crime like public mischief, which is not a strict or outright crime.
“The crimes of strict liability and absolute responsibility do not have an element of mental guilt associated,” he explained, “but the crime of public harm specifically indicates that a person must have the intention of deceiving the police when filing the complaint.”
If the indemnification clause is later found to not apply in McCallum’s public damages case, he added, McCallum could be forced to reimburse the city for his legal fees.
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The intent of the provision is to protect government officials working in their official capacity from personal liability, Lee said.
Annis and her partner Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke, however, has said that McCallum was shopping on personal time and was therefore not acting in his capacity as mayor when the alleged incident occurred.
“There is no indication that he was doing nothing but personal business,” Locke said.
“I am very concerned that the city is paying, that the citizens, the taxpayers of this city are paying, the legal fees in this case.”
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Locke said he knows McCallum may have to reimburse the city if convicted of public injury, but he has never heard of a case where that has happened before.
“The challenge is, how do you make that happen?” she asked. “From what I discovered, there is hardly any case where someone has paid the city legal fees.”
Following the public charge of antics against McCallum, calls for his resignation have increased.
The mayor may also face a complaint about the code of conduct from the group opposing the city’s transition from the RCMP to launching its own municipal police service.
McCallum’s first court date is scheduled for January.
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