Surrey’s new ethics commissioner served in the role on an interim basis in 2020, when the city became B.C.’s first municipality to establish such a position.
This week Surrey council unanimously appointed Peter Johnson to the job following an “extensive” search by a six-member Surrey Ethics Commissioner Selection Committee, city hall announced Tuesday (March 7).
Johnson, a partner with B.C. law firm Stewart McDannold Stuart, has more than 30 years of experience “providing legal advice and assistance to local governments throughout the province on a wide variety of matters,” a news release says.
The job of the independent officer is to advise and assist the city council “on how to best enhance open, transparent, and accountable governance.” The mandate includes the authority to investigate complaints and make disciplinary recommendations.
Surrey council established the Ethics Commissioner’s office in 2019, and the job was previously held by Reece Harding, whose contract ended in 2022.
Last November council voted to recruit a new commissioner and create a selection committee that involved Coun. Harry Bains (chair), Mayor Brenda Locke (vice-chair), Marisa Cruickshank, Joseph Cuenca, Baljit Dhaliwal and Jasroop Gosal.
“With his extensive experience on municipal matters, Peter Johnson is the ideal candidate to fulfill the duties of the Office of the Ethics Commissioner,” Locke stated in a news release.
“I would also like to thank the Ethics Commissioner Selection Committee for their exceptional work in finding a highly qualified candidate for such an important position.”
One of Johnson’s first jobs will be to consider a recent Surrey Police Union complaint alleging conflict of interest on the part of Surrey Connect Councillor Rob Stutt. In February, union president Rob Stewart issued a statement charging that Stutt, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, has voted to end the transition to Surrey Police Service from the Surrey RCMP without disclosing that his son is employed by the Surrey RCMP and his daughter is seconded from the City of Surrey and assigned to the RCMP.
Johnson’s bio on the Stewart McDannold Stuart website says he’s made numerous presentations on a variety of local government law topics.
He graduated with his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of British Columbia in 1988, was a law clerk with the County Court of Vancouver, then completed his articles in Vancouver. He was called to the Bar in 1990.
“Peter practiced civil litigation for a number of years with a major Vancouver firm, appearing before all levels of court in British Columbia,” the bio says. “In 1997 he became the Assistant City Solicitor with a large and growing municipality in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver.
“In 2001 Peter joined the firm and continues to practice as a partner with our solicitors group. Peter provides legal advice and assistance to local governments throughout the province on a wide variety of matters, including interpretation of local government legislation, planning and development law, real estate and other commercial transactions, contract tendering issues, bylaw drafting, expropriation, environmental law issues, freedom of information and privacy issues, and conflicts of interest.”
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