Langley City Council has ordered a third report on the use of RCMP overtime to help cover the cost of tickets for Mayor Val van den Broek’s Jan. 25, 2020 gala fundraiser.
At the same time, the councillors signalled they want to review the current relationship with the Mounties, by looking into options that could include creating an independent Langley police service.
Both measures were approved following a sometimes-heated debate over the second report on the issue, presented to council on Monday, April 26. It said assistant RCMP commissioner Maureen Levy had confirmed one officer who attended the event had worked four hours overtime, at the suggestion of the officer-in-charge, to help cover the cost of buying tickets.
Levy said a “thorough review” showed $361.44 in overtime was charged to the City of Langley after the gala.
Several members of council were skeptical, pointing to the first report by Paul Gill, the former Maple Ridge general manager of finance and corporate services, which said 35 Langley RCMP members attended the event and 19 of them came with spouses or guests, buying 54 tickets for a total value of $8,100.
Coun. Nathan Pachal proposed a report by staff answering four questions, including how much of the gala overtime costs were worked by Township of Langley RCMP officers.
“Why are there significant discrepancies between the Gill report and RCMP report on taxpayer costs, $8,100 compared to $361.44?” Pachal asked.
“Why did it take over one year to receive a response from the RCMP [and] why was the former officer-in-charge of the Langley detachment, Superintendent Murray Power, reassigned?”
Power was moved out of the Langley detachment without explanation after news of the overtime offer by Power to senior officers surfaced.
Coun. Teri James wanted to know who paid for the other tickets.
“There’s still $7,800 missing,” James said.
“Does that get billed to the Township?” James asked.
Coun. Gayle Martin called the Levy response “laughable.”
“What I see, is the ‘thin red line’ here protecting the RCMP,” Martin fumed.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Martin commented.
Coun. Paul Albrecht said the RCMP were playing a “shell game” to hide the expenses.
“The numbers don’t add up,” Albrecht argued.
Van den Broek defended the gala, which raised $56,000 for the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation to buy equipment to detect ovarian and breast cancer, saying “the good that we have done with the gala has a lasting result.”
As for the overtime, van den Broek maintained she was “quite confident” that any overtime worked was for legitimate police purposes and the Council-ordered reports looking into the event represented “unnecessary and significant costs” to the City.
“There is no missing money,” van den Broek insisted, telling council they need to “let it go and move on.”
“We [council] are not operating as an effective, collective body,” van den Broek went to say.
“We have to start focusing on city business, rather than each other.”
Martin disputed the mayor’s comments, saying “this isn’t picking on you, this is standing up for the taxpayers.”
Coun. Rudy Storteboom said the whole matter had become “kind of embarrassing” but another review was warranted.
“Maybe some people got upset because it was kind of a victory lap for the mayor,” Storteboom observed, adding “I’m okay with that.”
Albrecht also called it embarrassing, saying he took no pleasure in the process, but “there is wrongdoing and misspending.”
Pachal’s call for a third report on the gala was approved by a vote of council, as was a second Pachal motion that opened the door for a look into an independent Langley police department.
Staff were told to include a “review of the policing service model for Langley City” in the 2022 budget.
Pachal, chair of the City crime prevention task group, said he had no issues with the individual RCMP officers working in Langley City.
“This is about the system,” Pachal said.
“We’re asking questions about finances and not getting answers.”
Pachal said the review should cover several possibilities, including operating a separate RCMP detachment rather than the current shared model with the Township, and even leaving the RCMP to establish an independent police service, either shared with the Township or City-only.
Coun. Rosemary Wallace said she was “so for” the proposal, noting that other communities are also reexamining their policing systems.
“We are not the only municipality looking at this,” Wallace noted.
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