The amount paid to the law firm that successfully defended former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum in his public mischief trial remains a secret.
But that won’t last forever.
A Provincial Court judge ruled McCallum not guilty on Nov. 21 of the charge that he made a false report to police about a Keep the RCMP in Surrey protester driving over his left foot on Labour Day weekend in 2021.
McCallum lost the mayoralty to Brenda Locke in the Oct. 15, 2022 election, after she promised to pursue repayment.
Under solicitor-client privilege, a public body can decide how much or how little it wants to tell the public about the legal costs it pays. However, in 2015, an adjudicator with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ruled against the Private Career Training Institutions Agency and upheld the public’s right to know the total amount paid to a specific law firm for an entire year.
Despite that, City of Surrey chose to temporarily withhold the total dollar figure paid to Peck and Co. for 2022 in response to a March 28 freedom of information application.
When city hall responded May 11, after the law’s 30-workday deadline, it cited a clause that allows a public body to refuse disclosure of information that must be published under another law – in this case, the Financial Information Act, which requires Surrey city hall to release the list of payments to suppliers and staff in the annual statement of financial information by June 30.
Locke did not respond to requests for comment.
City of Surrey’s indemnity bylaw still contains a clause that states it will shield municipal officials against payment of costs to defend a prosecution in connection with “the performance or intended performance of the person's duties.”
Keep the RCMP in Surrey members were outside the Southpoint Save-on-Foods on Sept. 4, 2021, collecting signatures for a petition they hoped would trigger a referendum on McCallum’s program to replace the RCMP with the Surrey Police Service. One of the petitioners, who was driving a Mustang convertible, yelled at McCallum to resign the mayoralty and unleashed a barrage of profanity at him. In court, Debi Johnstone denied McCallum’s hit-and-run allegation. McCallum told reporters after the incident that he was there on a grocery shopping trip.
During the five-day trial, McCallum was represented by three lawyers and an assistant, including Richard Peck and Eric Gottardi, from the team that defended Huawei executive Meng Wenzhou against extradition to the U.S.
McCallum did not testify.
In a campaign video published last September on Surrey Connect’s Facebook page, Locke warned McCallum.
“So Doug, you better be very careful with every minute you spend with your lawyer because we are coming after you for every dime you spend,” Locke said on the video, which remains visible.
In an interview after her victory speech, Locke reiterated her stance. “We’ll be asking our city legal [department] to figure out a way to get that money back and to make Mr. McCallum pay for his legal bills.”
McCallum did not respond to email and phone requests for comment.