Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (Now-Leader file photo)

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (Now-Leader file photo)

City-owned car controversy tailgates Surrey mayor

‘The optics are terrible,’ former Surrey mayor Bob Bose says. ‘Outrageous’

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum is finding himself in some controversy over driving a city-owned set of wheels while also receiving an annual car allowance of $14,580.

McCallum drives a 2019 Buick Envision SUV, which the city bought for $46, 521.44. Former Surrey mayor Bob Bose, and others, are taking him to task.

“This came to my attention because people observed McCallum filling his car at the city works yard and everybody had assumed that was his own personal vehicle,” Bose told the Now-Leader.

“The optics are terrible,” Bose said. “Outrageous.”

“Everybody thought that McCallum was driving his own car,” he added. “It’s totally opaque, it’s not transparent. Totally opaque. You’d have to be a forensic auditor to sort this one out, and I’m not. Just one wrinkle after another.”

A Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request filed by Surrey resident Richard Landale revealed that McCallum’s vehicle allowance is intended to cover the replacement cost of the SUV, third-party liability insurance, fuel, repairs and maintenance and any other fleet shop costs charged to vehicles that are managed by the city.

“The mayor uses a City vehicle,” city hall confirmed. “Any costs incurred by the City on the Mayor’s behalf, related to this vehicle, are deducted from the monthly vehicle allowance and the Mayor receives any remaining amount in cash. The costs that are deducted from the monthly vehicle allowance include fuel filled at the City’s works yard using a fuel card, and all other fleet and insurance related costs.”

McCallum has not responded to requests for comment.

City of Surrey communications project manager Amber Stowe told the Now-Leader, “I can confirm that the Mayor uses his car allowance to repay the city for any car costs, including insurance and gas.” According to city policy, one-third of the allowance is provided on a tax-free basis.

Councillor Jack Hundial said he intends to lodge a complaint.

“I think the appropriate first stop is going to be talking to the ethics commissioner,” Hundial said. “I’m disappointed, quite frankly.

“It’s just another unneeded black eye for a city,” Hundial said. “It’s just the general optics of having politicians appear to be getting special treatment at the cost of taxpayers.

“Surrey’s better than this.”

Reece Harding, Surrey’s ethics commissioner, declined to confirm if he’s received any complaints.

“When it comes to complaints received by my office they will be confidential, and they are confidential, so I’m not going to talk about stuff that I’ve received or haven’t received,” Harding told the Now-Leader. “I’m not going to comment on complaints, I’m not going to talk publicly about complaints, I’m not even going to necessarily say I’ve received a complaint.”

READ ALSO: Surrey’s first ethics commissioner brings ‘objectivity’ to the job

Bose said his position is that “either McCallum gets a city car, paid for by the city, serviced by the city, and no car allowance, or he gets a car allowance and is responsible for his own vehicle.

“As council members are.”

Surrey’s mayor and eight councillors raked in $1,020,072 last year in pay, car allowance, travel costs, communications and other expenses. All together, Surrey’s nine council members received $74,060 in car allowance.

McCallum is not the first Surrey mayor to be provided with a car from the city. Some have, and others have not.

Bose said Don Ross, a towering mayor at six-foot four, “was the first mayor to be given a city car, and they stuffed him into a Toyota Tercel with a hatchback. And they stuffed him into that – it was quite a sight.”

Ross was Surrey’s mayor from 1980 to 1988. Bose succeed him, serving from 1988 to 1996.

“When I came along, they gave me a K-car, which was the Edsel of the Dodge line, I guess. It was a disaster,” Bose recalled. “But same arrangements; I had a mayor’s car for my exclusive use. and it was serviced and owned by the city. All the costs were covered, including fuel and service.”

Bose said the car had been purchased for the city’s director for economic development.

“I called it the city’s brothel creeper. It was the most gussied-up junk you could imagine. It was all velour, like a phoney suede, kind of a creamy brown. It was a piece of junk. It was passed down to me and I had to drive what I was given.”

Once, Bose said, the driver’s door fell off in a mechanic’s hands. It met its end when Bose and former Surrey MLA Sue Hammell, who was his assistant and driving at the time, were rear-ended by a “beater” of a van near city hall. “I ended up in the back seat, the seat collapsed and I ended up prone in the back. Sue was driving.”

And so that was the end of the brothel creeper. “Oh, it was done. It was totalled. So the brothel creeper was no more.”

After that, Bose was given a Ford Taurus, then a Plymouth Dynasty. He handed the keys over when he was no longer mayor. Did Bose get a car allowance as well? “No, no, no, no,” he gasped. “There was no car allowance in those days.”

Dianne Watts, who served as mayor from 2005 to 2014, didn’t get a car from the city. “No, we had a car allowance. That was to cover any expenses with the car,” she said. “I can only say for me what the structure was when I was there. I never filled up at the works yard, I never had the city pay for a lease. I had a car allowance and that covered any expenses for traveling.”

READ ALSO: Surrey’s mayor and eight councillors raked in $1,020,072 last year

Asked if city hall bought or leased a car for her when she was mayor, Linda Hepner laughed.

“I had no idea that was even an option,” she said. “The car allowance was intended to maintain your own vehicle, to buy your own vehicle, pay for your own gas, to buy your own insurance, and to take into account any wear-and-tear you would have on your own vehicle. That was the full intention, from my understanding, of what a car allowance was for.”

Hepner served as Surrey’s mayor from 2014 to 2018.

“Clearly, if I was using a city vehicle, and the city was first of all buying it, second maintaining it and using the city’s maintenance yard to maintain it, thirdly, using the cheaper city gas, then I would have expected no allowance because I’m not imposing any costs on my personal bank account,” Hepner said.

“That really surprised me to see that that’s what was happening. I cannot think of a clearer example of double-dipping than that.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

ethics complaintSurrey

Just Posted

A young couple walks through the Othello Tunnels just outside of Hope. (Jessica Peters/Black Press)
Hope’s Othello Tunnels fully open to the public

Geological testing proved the area safe enough to open for the first time in more than a year

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

.
Fraser Health monitors long-term care vaccination rates amid local COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 transmission has largely been on the decline in Agassiz-Harrison

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Raeya Evie Duncan was the 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital for the month of May. She is seen here with her parents Alysha Williams and Andrew Duncan on June 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Baby boom in Chilliwack as record number of infants born at CGH in May

‘COVID babies are coming out,’ says dad of 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital last month

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read