Calgary·Calgary Votes 2021

Premier says Coun. Sean Chu should step down after narrow election win if misconduct reports true

A city councillor who won re-election in Calgary's municipal election by a razor-thin margin amid controversy will likely face a recount launched by his primary opponent as others — like Calgary's mayor-elect — call for him to concede.

Chu disciplined for incident involving 16-year-old girl when he was 34-year-old police officer

Ward 4 incumbent Coun. Sean Chu had received 12,422 votes to JD Kelly's 12,370, after all polling stations had reported Tuesday morning. (CBC)

Alberta's premier says a city councillor who won re-election in Calgary's municipal election by a razor-thin margin owes the public answers about reported misconduct involving a minor while he was a police officer.

Jason Kenney says the councillor should also step down if those reports are correct.

Ward 4 incumbent Sean Chu, who has served as a city councillor since 2013, led his closest rival DJ Kelly by just 52 votes with all stations reporting at about 11 a.m. on Tuesday, according to Elections Calgary.

The results were delayed Monday night following technical problems with a couple of electronic vote tabulators. In the final tally, Chu received 12,422 votes to Kelly's 12,370.

Chu's narrow victory comes amid recent reports that he was found guilty of discreditable conduct when he was a police officer for having inappropriate physical contact with a minor.

Before the results for Ward 4's race came in, Calgary's mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek seemed to imply on Tuesday morning that if Chu were the winner, he should concede.

"I would hope that Sean Chu understands the magnitude of what this brings to council if he's successful, and I hope he makes a decision that would be in the best interest of Calgarians," Gondek told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Premier Jason Kenney echoed that sentiment in a Tuesday news conference.

"There are few crimes worse than sexual exploitation of a minor, and I take this very seriously," the premier said. 

"If he's denying these claims, then he owes the public proof of that denial."

Kenney said the province doesn't have the authority to remove Chu. He said that councillors convicted of an offence requiring more than five years in prison are disqualified from serving. Chu wasn't criminally charged, so Kenney said the province is investigating its options. 

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said he agrees with the premier, and that "if the worst of the allegations turn out to be true, then yes, he should resign." 

Opponent asks for recount

Kelly announced around 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday that his team is in the process of applying for a recount under the Local Authorities Elections Act.

Ward 4 incumbent Sean Chu led his closest rival DJ Kelly, pictured, by just 52 votes with all stations reporting at about 11 a.m. on Tuesday, according to Elections Calgary. (Candidate photo)

"We are very fortunate to live in a democratic society where every vote counts, and we intend to ensure that the voice of every Calgarian in Ward 4 is heard," Kelly's statement said in part.

"As we went throughout every neighbourhood in Ward 4, knocking on more than 11,000 doors and connecting with neighbours, it never escaped me that I was running for my community. They're not going anywhere, so I'm not going anywhere, no matter what the final result is."

Candidates have until 4 p.m. on Wednesday to request a recount. All results are still considered unofficial until certified on Friday.

CBC News reached out to Chu for comment on the results Monday night, when he led the race by over 700 votes with 28 out of 30 stations reporting, but has yet to get a response.

Revelations about Chu 'deeply concerning,' Kelly says

Chu has been under scrutiny since CBC News broke the story last week that when he was a 34-year-old police officer  in 1997 he faced allegations that involved a 16-year-old girl.

Details in the story came from two Law Enforcement Review Board decisions on appeals filed in connection with the internal police investigation. 

Chu said he was found guilty of misconduct for touching her leg under a table in a public place, in a statement provided to CBC News.

The teen, now a woman, said she was sexually assaulted at Chu's home.

Ultimately, no criminal charges were laid.

"Those revelations are, obviously for me, deeply concerning," Kelly told the media on Monday during election night.

"My thoughts are primarily with the victim."

Madu declines to comment as others weigh in

Outgoing Ward 12 Coun. Shane Keating expressed disappointment as Chu led the race on Monday, and said constituents likely did not have enough time to digest news of the allegations before election day.

"The halls of City Hall should be honoured and respected, and there is a time when things didn't go someone's way and they graciously stepped aside. That's really what should have happened," Keating said.

"And I think the provincial government really, really has to come forward with some criteria before you can run."

Alberta's Justice Minister Kaycee Madu has declined to comment.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, however, issued a statement withdrawing her endorsement of Chu, and said he is no longer a member of her constituency association.

It was posted on Twitter as election results came in on Monday night, although Rempel said it had been issued on Oct. 15.

"In light of the disciplinary action, as a result of inappropriate contact with a minor, which has been reported by CBC Calgary, MP Rempel Garner is formally withdrawing her endorsement of Councillor Sean Chu," Rempel's statement said in part.

"MP Rempel Garner was not aware of this issue prior to it coming to light in the CBC article."

Chu charged under Police Act

After the incident, Chu was investigated by CPS's professional standards section for two allegations he breached service regulations, which led to Chu being charged with two counts of discreditable conduct under the Police Act.

And after a hearing, Chu was convicted on one count of misconduct. Although the decision does not elaborate on the details of the findings, Chu maintains "the one finding of discreditable conduct involved touching her leg."

Chu's penalty was a letter of reprimand on his CPS file for a five-year term, which expired in 2008, according to his written statement.

A statement from Sean Chu's lawyer said the councillor denies knowing that the teen was underage at the time.

According to a source with direct knowledge of the incident, a firearm was involved in the 1997 incident which the victim described as a sexual assault.

In his written statement, Chu expressed concern with the reasoning behind the allegations coming to light 24 years after the incident.

"The timing … literally decades after both matters were resolved, is motivated by politics and not by justice," said Chu.

With files from Meghan Grant, Dan McGarvey, Elise Stolte and Sarah Rieger