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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

School District 42’s Energy Cup runs from April 6 to 30. (SD 42 photo)
Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows students take on month-long energy conservation challenge

Sixth annual Energy Cup sees district’s elementary schools compete against one another

A ambulance drives past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
9 Lower Mainland hospitals to postpone non-urgent surgeries as hospitalizations surge

Record number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals across B.C.

Ethan Andrews (left) and his aunt Shihana Wewala were two of the volunteers planting trees with Pitt Meadows parks workers in Bonson Park. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Pitt Meadows families plant trees for Earth Day

Popular city event sees beautification of Bonson Park

Stu Burgess is operations manager for Golden Ears and Rolley Lake Provincial Parks. (The News files)
Golden Ears park camping to be limited to those in local health region

Fraser Health Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health now considered one region

Police respond to a reported stabbbing near Fletcher Park in Maple Ridge on Wednesday afternoon. (Ronan O’Doherty/The News)
UPDATE: Stabbing reported in downtown Maple Ridge

Police and ambulance respond to home invasion near Fletcher Park

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

Memorial for Travis Selje on 64th Avenue in Cloverdale, west of 176th Street. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Epilepsy-defence driver found not guilty in crash that killed Surrey teen Travis Selje

Accused testified she has no recollection of the crash and believes she had an epileptic seizure that caused the collision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

Willoughby condo fire at 208th Street and 80th Avenue on April 19, 2021. (Shane MacKichan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley Fire: The aftermath of the inferno

The scene remains active as investigators work to determine a cause

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

A Mercedes SUV is covered at a gas station in the Clayton area following a deadly shooting there on Sept. 28, 2019. Carlos Monteith, the man charged in the Clayton shooting, was sentenced April 22 on charges related to a different shooting in New West in November, 2019. (File photo)
Man gets 6.5 years in prison for shooting as he awaits trial for separate Cloverdale slaying

Carlos Nathaniel Monteith sentenced for possessing a prohibited weapon and discharging a firearm with intent

Most Read