Winnipeg Coun. Vivian Santos reconsiders resignation from police board
Winnipeg defence lawyer says Santos has right to know why she failed check, calls rules vague and confusing
A city councillor who resigned from Winnipeg's police board says she is reconsidering her decision.
Coun. Vivian Santos (Point Douglas), who was was appointed to the board last month, resigned Tuesday after failing the police screening that is a requirement for being on the board.
Now, she's considering rescinding that resignation.
"I do feel that the Winnipeg police have acted arbitrarily and have denied me procedural fairness," Santos said in a tweet Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Santos said she had no idea why she failed the screening test but said she would resign regardless. Police refused to tell her why, she said.
She said Wednesday she wasn't prepared to elaborate on what has changed her mind.
In addition to possibly rescinding her resignation, Santos now says she may also pursue legal options to clear her name.
I am considering rescinding my resignation from the Police Board, and other legal options, in order to clear my name. Ensuring accountability for the WPS and City of Winnipeg is of utmost importance to me. I will provide more information in due course. 2/2—@Vivs4PDW
Winnipeg police said Tuesday they do not comment on individual security checks, but pointed to eligibility criteria for police board members included in the Police Services Act.
After Santos's resignation announcement Tuesday, Winnipeg defence lawyer Scott Newman weighed in on Twitter, saying Santos's failed security check raises questions about the requirement.
He doesn't think police should be performing background checks on those tasked with overseeing them.
"Who should be the final decision-maker as to whether or not somebody is of good character? Is it the mayor? Is it city council? Is it the Winnipeg police?" he said in an interview with CBC Wednesday.
"It would be weird to say the police can veto who is providing oversight to them."
I hope Councillor Santos would reconsider stepping back, and instead take the matter to Court so there could be a proper hearing on the matter and a decision as to what powers the WPS actually has, and how the regulation should be interpreted. 6/6 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/mbpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#mbpoli</a>—@ScottNewmanWpg
The legislation surrounding police board eligibility is vague and confusing, Newman said.
"It doesn't say that failing the background check is a barrier to being appointed to the police board," he said, and also seems to suggest that the appointing body — city council — has final say after the background check results are in.
"The police can't give a thumbs up, thumbs down; they can just provide that information to the appointing body. That's one possible interpretation."
In March, Santos told CBC News she and her husband were good friends with a man facing drug trafficking charges.
She said she had been contacted by Winnipeg police officers around that time, enquiring whether she or her husband were related to a man who had been arrested.
But she said she didn't know about the friend's alleged involvement in selling drugs.
CBC News hasn't confirmed whether that contributed to the failed security check. Asked Tuesday whether she believes it was a factor, Santos said she didn't know and wouldn't speculate.
Mayor Brian Bowman said it's unfortunate more information wasn't provided to Santos.
He thinks the failed security screening, and her resignation, warrant further consideration by the police board.
"I was very proud to support councillor Santos's nomination to that board," he said, adding the vote was unanimous.
City council appointed Santos, who is also acting deputy mayor, to the police board to fill a hole left by Coun. Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River). He took over as chair of the board last month when Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood Coun. Kevin Klein stepped down.
"She works hard," Bowman said. "She is very passionate about the issues affecting our city and her community."
He said he has had conversations with police board chair Chambers as recently as Wednesday about concerns over the background check review process.
Chambers said he supports RCMP taking over background checks for current and prospective police board members. That would increase transparency, he said, "so that the [Winnipeg] Police Service itself is not restricting input to the board."
Newman said Santos has a right to know why she failed the check, and she has the right to defend herself under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"There has to be some kind of a process in place that allows you to correct errors, to have an appeal process so you can in essence clear your name now," he said.
"Your name has been dragged through the mud to say … 'we're not satisfied that you are a trustworthy person.'"
With files from Erin Brohman, Sean Kavanagh and Holly Caruk