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Outgoing Surrey mayor Doug McCallum to spend Halloween defending himself against public mischief charge

On a day dedicated to widespread tomfoolery, Surrey’s mayor will be in a provincial court this Halloween trying to distance himself from one specific act of alleged public mischief.

As he defends himself against an accusation of lying about being struck by a car driven by a political opponent, Doug McCallum will don a costume unfamiliar to citizens who voted him out of office earlier this month: criminal defendant.

But will a trick or treat await the 78-year-old?

That depends on the outcome of a seven-day trial set to begin this morning.

A disputed parking-lot encounter

McCallum was charged with one count of public mischief last December — three months after the encounter in a Save-on-Foods parking lot that sparked the criminal case.

At the time, McCallum claimed a member of the group opposing the city’s police transition had run over his foot.

McCallum is pictured near a Surrey Police vehicle during his state of the city address in 2019. The mayor claimed an opponent of municipal policing ran over his foot. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The group, Keep the RCMP in Surrey, had been collecting signatures for a policing referendum campaign.

The woman McCallum claimed ran him over said she was falsely accused of vehicular assault.

The conflicting accounts will be put to the test during a trial likely to depend heavily on surveillance video of the incident taken from various angles.

Charges of public mischief involve making false statements with the intention of misleading police officers.

The B.C. RCMP Major Crime Section headed the investigation after taking it over from the Surrey RCMP “to ensure there was no potential for real or perceived conflict of interest or improper influence.”

McCallum will be represented by Richard Peck, the man who led the legal “dream team” responsible for mounting Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou’s defence as she fought against extradition to the United States.

McCallum first served as Surrey’s mayor from 1996 to 2005 — returning for a fourth term in 2018.

He lost his most recent campaign for re-election three weeks ago to Brenda Locke, who will take the helm when a new council is sworn in on Nov. 7.

New mayor cuts off legal-fee compensation

McCallum’s legal fees have been covered by the city up to this point. 

But on Sunday, Locke told CBC News that she has instructed city staff to stop the compensation.

“I heard loud and clear from residents that they do not want to pay his legal fees, so I have told staff we are ceasing any further payment, effectively immediately,” she said.

Locke also said the city will consult an outside lawyer about recovering legal fees it has already paid to McCallum related to the case.

According to a city bylaw, all municipal officials, including members of council, can be compensated for costs relating to an incident that occurred while acting on behalf of the city. McCallum has faced criticism for claiming legal fees for an incident that happened while he was not on city business.

CBC News has contacted the City of Surrey for more information about McCallum’s legal fees.

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