Surrey city Councillor Jack Hundial says he has not been able to find any evidence of a policy that allows the city to purchase a vehicle for the mayor to use and cover the insurance costs around it.
During their respective terms as mayor, Dianne Watts and Linda Hepner received a car allowance but the city did not buy a car for them to use, while in Bose’s case the city provided him with a car but no car allowance.
McCallum stressed that he does not own the car the city has provided for him – the city does.
“We have regulations and it’s basically a mayor can either go the way I did or just get the car allowance,” McCallum told the Now-Leader on Friday. “In the case of me, I went with having a city-owned vehicle and so therefore my car allowance, as I stated to you, is used to reimburse the city, it’s full annual costs associated with operating the city owned car.”
Earlier this week CTV ran a story that Surrey taxpayers are on the hook for $7,000 after McCallum for the second time crashed a car the city bought for him, and that the mayor promised to pay the costs of the car out of his allowance but the city instead plans to forgive this debt and pay McCallum $1,794 in car-related costs this year instead.
“Let me say first of all that my annual car allowance is used to reimburse the city’s full annual costs associated with operating the city-owned vehicle,” McCallum said. “So in other words the city owns the car, not me, it’s like a bylaw officer, they go out in the bylaw cars, it’s like our trucks, people drive our trucks. I’m not receiving any additional financial benefit nor is the city forgiving any supposed debt as suggested by CTV. There is no debt.
“Secondly, when any city owned vehicle is involved in an accident while on city business, the expenses related to the accident are handled by the city,” McCallum said. “So it’s treated the same as a bylaw officer’s car, or any other city-owned vehicle.”
Hundial said he finds “the entire process mysterious, and I’ll tell you why,” Hundial said.
“From the first time I’ve heard about this I’ve gone to multiple general managers trying to find a clear layout not only of the policy but the associated bylaws which allows this to happen. I’ve yet to find it, which allows the city to purchase a vehicle for the mayor to use and cover the insurance costs around it.”
“From what I understand subsequent to that first crash McCallum was advised to go and purchase collision on his own for $750 and then during that second crash, I believe the collision was covered under that policy at that time. And then you also have a bill in there for a vehicle rental for $1,200,” Hundial said.
“It’s not transparent. I’ve spoken with previous mayors, with Dianne (Watts) and Linda (Hepner) and even Bob Bose, and they’re all perplexed.”
“I’ve yet to find where it’s clearly articulated that this is permitted and I think if the public knew where it was, then we’d know, there wouldn’t be so many questions around it, but as far as I know, I can’t find any other mayor or council where this arrangement, certainly in our area, exists,” Hundial said. “It doesn’t exist for other levels of government, from what I can see, either, so I hear.”
The Now-Leader reported in November that McCallum drives a 2019 Buick Envision SUV, which the city bought for $46, 521.44 while also receiving a $14,580 annual car allowance. In comparison, in neighbouring Delta, Mayor George Harvie drives his own car and receives an annual car allowance of $16,728.
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 in the FOI response. “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.”
City of Surrey spokeswoman Amber Stowe told the Now-Leader in November, “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.
Of the mayor’s car allowance, Nagra said, “How ever he’s spending it, on car or on travel, I think he’s in compliance.”
“We haven’t made any bylaw but this bylaw was in place even before, even the previous council and mayor, they had this privilege of car allowance, right, and there was a certain amount that was set for council and I think it’s always been like that,” Nagra said.