Alberta’s minister has no authority to remove Calgary Coun. Sean Chu, finds the law firm

Alberta’s Minister of Local Government Ric McIver has no authority to remove the controversial Calgary Coun. Sean Chu, according to the law firm investigating the case.

Following revelations last month of Chu’s discredited behavior when he was a police officer, McIver asked non-partisan department officials to review the municipal government law to verify what legal access, if any, exists. On Friday, his office published this review.

The dismissal of a councilor by the minister is an extraordinary exercise of authority, which should not be easily pursued, read a summary letter from Brownlee LLP in Edmonton – the external firm selected to do the review.

“While the Minister has supervisory authority over municipalities, the Minister does not have the authority to temporarily remove a councilor from office under the current legislation,” the letter, written by Michael Solowan, reads.

Minister of Local Government Ric McIver said in October that after revelations concerning Coun. Sean Chu, he asked non-party political officials to review the Local Government Act to verify what legal access, if any, exists. (Alberta Legislative Assembly)

A minister can only remove a councilor under certain circumstances, the letter reads, which includes a review and escalation of a municipality being found governed in an “irregular” or “unlawful” way.

“If there are ongoing issues in a municipal council, the Minister may exercise their discretion to carry out an inspection or inquiry in order to ensure an ongoing and sound management of the municipality,” the letter states.

McIver said Friday that he has no authority to remove city council members, especially for events that took place before they were elected.

“He distinguishes between events that took place before he was elected, versus what happens now,” said Mount Royal University professor of political science Duane Bratt.

“What we have here is no criminal charges, no criminal convictions, some professional misconduct, albeit very serious.”

Bratt says McIver takes the situation seriously and follows the proper protocol, but says demands for Chu to be removed should be made with caution.

“Honestly, I’m not sure I want to see the provincial government with the ability to pick and choose who can sit on the council unless there are some overriding reasons.”

Chu has faced calls for his departure after CBC News broke the story that when he was a police officer, he was found guilty of discredited conduct for having had inappropriate physical contact with a minor. That news came out just before he was re-elected last month.

CBC also reported that Chu was involved in a fight in 2008 with his wife, which ended with the police responding and seizing a firearm, which was confirmed through court records.

Chu maintains that the cases were investigated and resolved and that the latest media coverage was politically motivated.

He narrowly won Ward 4 over DJ Kelly by just 100 votes. Kelly has since filed an application for a judicial recount of election results.

CBC News has contacted Chu and Mayor Jyoti Gondek for a comment.

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