An additional review of Langley City mayor Val van den Broek’s Jan. 25 fundraiser was ordered by City council Monday night.
The request came down following presentation of a report that said, while RCMP officers were not directly paid overtime to attend the event, remarks by the officer in charge (OIC) of the Langley detachment created “confusion.”
Councillor Nathan Pachal spoke in favour of a “more detailed” review being needed to outline actual expenses to the City. He specifically pointed to the potential cost of having RCMP officers work four-hour overtime shifts to make up for the individual costs incurred in buying tickets to the Winter Wonderland gala.
An initial report was presented by Paul Gill, the former Maple Ridge general manager of finance and corporate services. But Pachal called it “kind of vague in the costs.”
“It’s really important that we get the full picture,” Pachal added.
Coun. Paul Albrecht said the new review should also look at potential costs incurred by City employees, calling for a “competent and complete forensic audit” to put the matter to rest.
Coun. Rudy Storteboom agreed, saying “I think there’s a little bit more to this story.”
Storteboom also supported Gill’s recommendation that a code of conduct be considered, complete“with consequences” for members of council. It’s something Storteboom said he has lobbied for.
Coun. Gayle Martin convinced council to delay – until after the financial analysis is done – any decisions on a code of conduct, along with the recommendation that councillors meet with the OIC to establish expenditure protocols and expectations for future initiatives like this.
Van den Broek, who voted against the delay on the code of conduct and OIC meeting, and against the additional review, said the Gill report shows there is a lack of clear City guidelines for events like the fundraiser she organized.
“Our policy isn’t well enough worded, or detailed enough, to provide the kind of specific guidance that is required,” van den Broek said.
“We need to clarify the requirements of our policy going forward, so that the basis for proceeding with events like this is known and understood.”
The mayor noted the event raised $56,000 for the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation to buy equipment to detect ovarian and breast cancer at an early stage.
“I’m not perfect, and there were things about this event that probably weren’t perfect either,” she said.
“But the good we have done for the community remains the most important and lasting result from this gala, and I’m hoping for the chance to hold other events like this, and do an even better job.”
If concerns arise in the future about such an event, council members should discuss those concerns “in a proper meeting setting, so we can all work together,” she said.
“I understand I am not the mayor the majority of you wanted, but we have to start working together – which is what the community expects of us all,” van den Broek said.
A date for the financial report is unknown, but City chief administrative officer Francis Cheung said it would be as soon as possible.
In his review, Gill addressed the reference to an email sent to Langley officers from OIC Supt. Murray Power about RCMP overtime and the mayor’s gala.
In the message encouraging detachment members to attend, Power pointed out that a four-hour overtime shift would be enough to cover costs of two people attending.
“As far as the OIC is concerned, there was no intent to pay overtime,” Gill wrote.
“Rather the intent was to make members aware that there were opportunities to earn additional income by doing meaningful work.”
A total of 54 tickets were purchased by 35 officers, 19 of whom came with spouses or guests, for a total of $8,100.
“This is the first time that the detachment has participated in an event such as this, and the OIC regrets the confusion that has been created around the tickets purchased by the RCMP,” Gill said.
In February, the Langley Advance Times submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the local RCMP regarding rumours that local officers were offered overtime hours if they attended the mayor’s inaugural fundraiser.
The media outlet did not receive the requested information, initially being told the officer responsible was away on leave.
Upon following up on Aug. 31, the Advance Times was told its request had been misdirected to Langley’s Professional Standards Unit.
The Advance Times was subsequently redirected by RCMP regional headquarters to submit an Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) – not an FOI – online at the federal level. That has since been done.
On Sept. 12, the Advance Times received a response from the RCMP, which confirmed the force was “undertaking the necessary search of our records.”
The message apologized for the delayed response, saying “in light of the current events related to COVID-19, our capacity to process requests is limited, as well, the capacity of personnel involved in the retrieval of records and/or provision of representations is similarly affected.”
After concerns were raised about RCMP involvement in the event, Power was reassigned “temporarily” and without explanation to the RCMP’s E-Division regional headquarters in Surrey.
Gill’s report also addressed the use of “corporate identity,” in the form of the City coat of arms in connection with the gala, created the appearance that it was a City function – even though council did not endorse it.
In Gill’s view, that appeared to go against the intent of the City’s corporate identity and brand policy. And, while the City could have some legal exposure, “this exposure is largely mitigated by steps that were taken by the mayor.”
Among those steps; the agreement for use of the facility was in the “personal name of the mayor,” liability insurance was arranged through a private company, a gaming licence was obtained for the raffles and 50-50 draw, liquor service was handled by the operator under their own licences and permits, the ticket sales were handled through Eventbrite “and an accounting of the admissions is available.”
Gill suggested the City’s branding guidelines should be amended to “identify consequences for not abiding by the policy and the delegation of responsibility” be reviewed.
“On a go-forward basis, where a member of council wishes to pursue an initiative like this, there should be formal consultation with council,” Gill added.
He indicated the battle over the charity event is not the only matter dividing council members.
“It is important to note that the issues that I heard about [during my review] transcend the gala,” he wrote.
“I urge council to work through these issues so that they can remain focused for the rest of the council term.”