Pressure for Calgary Coun. Sean Chu to resign intensifies as Gondek, all councillors speak out

A city councillor who narrowly won re-election in Calgary's municipal election Monday is facing mounting pressure from his council colleagues to resign over reported misconduct involving a minor while he was a police officer.

'I hope he ... steps away,' mayor-elect Gondek says of Ward 4 councillor

Calgary's mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek, left, says she hopes Ward 4's Sean Chu, right, 'steps away' over reported misconduct involving a minor while he was a police officer. (CBC)

An embattled city councillor who narrowly won re-election Monday in Calgary's municipal vote is facing mounting pressure from council colleagues to resign.

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

It also came amid recent reports that Chu was found guilty of discreditable conduct when he was a police officer for having inappropriate physical contact with a 16-year-old girl in 1997. A statement from Chu's lawyer said the councillor denies knowing that the teen was underage at the time.

The girl alleged she was sexually assaulted at Chu's home, but no criminal charge was ever filed.

It prompted many of Chu's council colleagues, including mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek, to ask Chu to step aside.

"We have this tremendous distraction before us when we should be going about the business of assembling a united team on council," Gondek told CBC Calgary's Scott Dippel on Wednesday morning.

"So, I hope he realizes what he is doing and steps away from this. That's what I'm asking … that is the advice he's been given by Calgarians, and I hope he takes it."

CBC News reported Wednesday evening that Chu was also involved in a 2008 fight with his wife that ended with police responding and seizing a firearm.

By Thursday morning, all 13 newly elected and incumbent council members had spoken out:

  • Ward 1 Sonya Sharp.
  • Ward 2 Jennifer Wyness.
  • Ward 3 Jasmine Mian.
  • Ward 5 Raj Dhaliwal.
  • Ward 6 Richard Pootmans.
  • Ward 7 Terry Wong.
  • Ward 8 Courtney Walcott.
  • Ward 9 Gian-Carlo Carra.
  • Ward 10 Andre Chabot.
  • Ward 11 Kourtney Branagan.
  • Ward 12 Evan Spencer.
  • Ward 13 Dan McLean.
  • Ward 14 Peter Demong.

The last council members to issue statements on Twitter — Wong, whose remarks came late Wednesday night, and McLean, who posted early Thursday morning — received some criticism in the comments for delayed responses.

"I stand with the victim in this case and support all women who suffer sexual abuse," Wong said in part.

"I took the time to respond with comments because I wanted to consult with my community."

While most councillors had requested that Chu step down, criticism was levied at McLean by commenters who said he was too vague.

"I find the entire situation regarding Councilor Chu deeply troubling," McLean tweeted early Thursday morning.

"It seemed prudent to talk with with Mr Chu before commenting but I have yet to hear back. I am hopeful that he will speak out soon and make the right decision."

'Not the Calgary I am here to build'

Before news of the 2008 incident broke, newly elected councillors, including Dhaliwal and Walcott, had tweeted on Tuesday that they stood behind comments Gondek had previously made on the allegations against Chu from 1997, as did re-elected Carra.

"I stand with the victim," Spencer also tweeted Tuesday. "Jyoti can count on my support should she turn to council to take action."

Meanwhile, Branagan tweeted that council cannot signal that those "who are guilty of offences against women and minors are allowed to hold power."

"That is not the Calgary I am here to build," she said.

On Wednesday, Branagan told CBC News that if Chu were to remain on council, it would undermine public trust in city council.

"We need government to lead, we need to set an example, and that is the reason I spoke up," Branagan said.

"If [Chu is] unwilling to take that step [and resign], I do believe both council and, in this case, the provincial government should be seriously considering disciplinary action, including not being able to hold a seat."

Both Sharp and Mian said that Chu needs to do the "right thing" and step down.

"These are serious allegations," Sharp tweeted on Wednesday. "The Integrity Commissioner should be looking into this in greater detail on behalf of the public."

Ward 2 councillor-elect Jennifer Wyness tweeted a statement on Wednesday that police and politicians hold positions of authority and trust, and commended the victim's "strength in the face of systemic oppression."

Saying council has limited authority over Chu's fate, Wyness suggested it launch an investigation into the Calgary Police Service instead.

Gondek also acknowledged Wednesday that council has few measures at its disposal, and suggested council would pursue the matter with the Alberta government.

"I believe this will be our first foray into a strong partnership with our provincial government to make sure we use every lever at our disposal, because they have more than we do," Gondek said.

On Tuesday, both Premier Jason Kenney and Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said that if the allegations against Chu are true, he should give up his council seat.

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

He said 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. 

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

With files from Meghan Grant and Scott Dippel