Calgary Coun. Sean Chu announces he will not be stepping down from city council

Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu says he will not be stepping down, amid calls for him to do so from his colleagues. 

Elections Calgary announced Thursday there would be no recounts of the results from the election

Chu says he'll be at the swearing-in ceremony despite calls for him to resign

2 years ago
Duration 5:23
City councillor Sean Chu faced reporters to respond to calls for his resignation over two incidents that came to light over the past week. He maintains the matters were investigated and resolved, and that recent media coverage was politically motivated.

Calgary Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu who has faced increasing calls for his resignation — after news surfaced that he had been disciplined for physical contact with a 16-year-old girl when he was a police officer — says he won't be stepping down, as he was duly re-elected and was never criminally charged.

He also said the decades-old allegations are resurfacing due to political motivation. 

"This came out just before the election and you cannot help yourself. Any common-sense person was going to think the same thing, that this is politically and character assassination," he said. 

  • WATCH | Councillor Sean Chu tells media he's not stepping down over 1997 sexual allegations in the above video 

By Thursday morning, all of Chu's newly elected and incumbent council colleagues had either called for him to resign or questioned whether it is appropriate for him to serve.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Chu addressed two incidents reported on by CBC News. Chu has been under scrutiny since CBC News broke the story on Oct. 15 that when he was a 34-year-old police officer in 1997 he faced allegations that involved a 16-year-old girl.

"I will continue to serve as the Ward 4 city councillor," Chu said. 

"I was duly-elected by the people of Ward 4, and I intend to stay at this position to serve the people of Ward 4."

Chu issues apology regarding 1997 incident 

CBC previously reported that Chu was found guilty of discreditable conduct when he was a police officer for having inappropriate physical contact with a minor. 

The teen, now a woman, said she was sexually assaulted at Chu's home, but no criminal charge was filed. Chu said he took an hours-long polygraph test and was found to be truthful in his statements. 

Chu said the two met while he was on a routine walkthrough of Kings Head Pub on Aug. 11, 1997. He said he came back around 2 a.m. off-duty and in plain clothes. He said he doesn't drink and took the teen back to his place. 

Chu said he couldn't tell the woman was underage because they were at an establishment where people are supposed to be 18 or older.

He denied that the incident involved a firearm, and said he doesn't recall previously meeting the teen two years prior. 

Chu apologized for the incident. 

"I want to apologize to the woman. It was never my intention to cause any harm," he said. 

"I apologize that this has come up for everyone, for my family and for the woman who has to relive this moment." 

The incident resulted in a letter of reprimand on his CPS file for a five-year term, which expired in 2008. 

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

Chu said his wife didn't call the police on the incident, his neighbour did. 

"I want to start by thanking my former wife and my children for their continued support," Chu said. 

"This was the lowest point in my life and I was under considerable stress at the time." 

Chu was on an unpaid leave of absence from the police to campaign for the provincial election. 

He says he chose to seek counselling after the incident. 

"This was a private family matter, and this story being used for political motivations has only brought emotional stress to my family. I'm sorry for them that this is happening," he said. 

"I had a mental health issue and my opponents are using it as an attack point against me and my family." 

In a written statement provided to CBC News, Chu's ex-wife confirmed the incident and said she never wanted to involve police.

"I worried he might harm himself," said Chu's former spouse in an email.

"Sean has never physically threatened or harmed myself or our children."

No recounts of election results

Chu said this will be his last election. The official results will be posted Friday. 

On Thursday, Elections Calgary announced there would be no recounts of the results from Monday's Municipal election.

Runners-up in Wards 9, 3 and 4 had requested recounts, but they were denied by the City's Returning Officer late Thursday.

A statement from Elections Calgary says tabulating machines were used to count the votes at the voting stations, and the Returning Officer has no discretion to use an alternative method.

The results were made official Friday at noon.

Calgary Police Commission investigating 

"What the commission can and will do is undertake a review of the Calgary Police Service's internal discipline process conducted at the time of the events in question," said Calgary Police Commission chair Bonita Croft in a statement regarding Chu. 

However, the commission's authority is limited by the Police Act, she said. 

"The commission expects all investigations of police officer conduct to be completed thoroughly, and all decisions relating to that conduct to be made with full consideration of the findings of an investigation," Croft said. 

"If process gaps are identified, the commission will support the Calgary Police Service in implementing any changes that could strengthen trust and transparency in future conduct investigations." 

Chu unofficially won Ward 4 by just 52 votes after all ballots had been counted in Tuesday's municipal election. The slim victory prompted Chu's primary opponent, DJ Kelly, to announce he would apply for a recount.

Minister of Municipal Affairs calls allegations 'serious'

Ric McIver, Minister of Municipal Affairs, said that following recent revelations regarding Chu, he has asked non-partisan department officials to review the municipal government act to verify what legal recourse, if any, exists.

"Contrary to what some have suggested, the Minister of Municipal Affairs cannot simply arbitrarily 'fire' an elected municipal official."

 "The allegations against Sean Chu are very serious. Any time an impropriety is alleged against a minor, the situation immediately becomes even more severe," McIver wrote. 

"Because of the importance of integrity and transparency, I fully intend to make this expert advice public, and I have asked this review to be completed as expediently as possible. Further details about this process, including the firm selected, will be released in the coming days."

Calgary mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek said if the embattled re-elected city councillor does not step down before next Monday's swearing-in ceremony, she will not administer him the oath of office — and asked the Alberta government to explore options to remove him if necessary.

"The Sean Chu situation continues to get more disturbing," Gondek said at a press conference on Thursday.

"This is a travesty for the young woman who was courageous enough to come forward … She needs to have this taken seriously, and he needs to resign in order for that to happen."

Gondek asked the Alberta government to begin examining options to remove Chu if he does not step down — and said if no action is taken, said she will not swear Chu into city council.

"[Chu] can absolutely show up. He won't be sworn in by me," Gondek said.

'Let's get this done together'

Premier Jason Kenney said in a Tuesday news conference that he is also taking the allegations against Chu "very seriously."

"There are few crimes worse than sexual exploitation of a minor," the premier said. "If he's denying these claims, then he owes the public proof of that denial."

At the time, Kenney said the province doesn't have the authority to remove Chu.

But Gondek said Thursday that "they do have that ability," and are likely "just getting up to speed on the powers they have to do something about this."

Calgary mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek, left, asked the province to begin examining options to remove Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu, centre, if he does not step down. Premier Jason Kenney, right, has said he takes allegations against Chu 'very seriously,' but Alberta doesn't have the authority to remove him. (CBC)

"I would encourage the provincial government to look at the Municipal Government Act to see if this member of council can be removed," Gondek said.

Section 574 of the Municipal Government Act gives the provincial government the power to dismiss a locally elected official, the mayor's office says.

However, Gondek recommended that the UCP's Bill 52 — the Recall Act — be proclaimed and used.

The legislation would allow Albertans to recall municipal politicians and school trustees, in addition to MLAs, making it a Canadian first.

For councillors, mayors and reeves, the chief administrative officer of a municipality would be able to declare them removed at the next council meeting upon receipt of a successful petition. 

Broadly, councillor recall petitions would require signatures of 40 per cent of eligible voters that represent 40 per cent of the population of a ward or of a municipality. 

"[Bill 52 has] been given Royal Assent, but it's yet to be proclaimed. If it is proclaimed, they can take action immediately," Gondek said.

"And we have talked for a long time about council and the provincial government needing to collaborate. This is it. Let's step up, let's get this done together."

Police chief, councillors speak out

Since the allegations against Chu came to light, the councillor has been under increasing scrutiny.

When news of the 2008 incident was reported, outgoing Mayor Naheed Nenshi called for him to resign on Twitter.

"It's simple. He must step down. If he does not, then the provincial government⁩ must act using powers under the Municipal Government Act to remove him," Nenshi said.

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said in a written statement on Wednesday that the allegations against Chu made him feel "shocked and concerned."

"Based on what I know at this time, I can say that the allegations were taken seriously and followed the process that was in place at that time," Neufeld said.

"This in no way absolves Mr. Chu of the deep disappointment his actions hold."

However, Neufeld also said that if the 2008 incident had happened today, the director of law enforcement would have been notified and the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team would have been called in to investigate. 

"The incident was investigated, and given the sensitivities involved, we engaged the Crown in Edmonton and no charges were laid," said Neufeld.

"I want to be clear; since this incident occurred our processes have evolved."

With files from Meghan Grant, Scott Dippel and Michelle Bellefontaine