– Transcript of Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell’s statement made Monday (Jan. 12) at the Data Tech Business Centre.
On Nov. 15, the citizens of Saanich handed me the responsibility to bring about change. I am humbled and honoured by the trust they placed in me with their vote.
It was an historic day – a tidal wave of change in the leadership of Saanich. The people chose an ‘outsider’ from the political realm.
I am not perfect. I will make mistakes, but when I do I will own them, learn from my errors, and do my best to ensure they do not happen again.
My lack of experience and the advice I was receiving allowed the narrative around media stories to be controlled by outside sources, leading to speculation, factual errors and omissions.
Today, I want to set the record straight on a number of issues.
First, in my wildest dreams I never expected to see my personal life become fodder for tabloid journalism. When reporters began interrogating me about intimate details of my personal life, I was shaken and offended. Shocked — and not knowing what to say during those interviews — I made a mistake.
I was not totally truthful when I denied allegations that I was having an extra-marital affair. I simply wanted to protect the people who are close to me, and I still do.
I ask that the media offer those involved the same respect, privacy and fairness shown to others who have come before us.
This is a private, personal matter and in no way affects my ability to fulfill my duties as mayor. So please understand I will not answer any further questions about my personal life. But I do want to set the record straight about the incident on Dec. 11 where Saanich police attended a residence.
I called 911 as a complainant looking for help, and at no time did I commit any criminal act. But I do have concerns about the way the investigation was handled and how details of the incident became public.
Today I filed a complaint asking B.C.’s Police Complaint Commissioner, asking him to have an outside department review the matter.
I also want to dispel any rumour and speculation that I have offered certain individuals employment in Saanich as this is completely untrue.
There is a process in place for hiring staff. I certainly know that, and it must be free from political influence. As I mentioned earlier, Saanich voters elected an outsider. I have not been immersed for 18-plus years in the political realm and have not had the opportunity to develop effective political skills.
But that changes today.
The incident on Dec. 11 was not the only interaction I’ve had with police. During the campaign, as mayor-elect and as mayor, police pulled me over not once, not twice, not three times, but on four separate occasions. In two of the instances, the officer administered a roadside breathalyzer test which I believe was done without reasonable suspicion. Each test confirmed a reading of 0.00.
Today, I am asking the head of the Integrated Road Safety Unit to review those stops. Also, on Dec. 11 I became aware that a member of the District of Saanich’s IT team had been instructed to place spyware on my computer and a number of other computers within the municipal hall.
I was told the spying program, called Spector 360, was to capture information typed and accessed on my computer, and report any usage back to a server controlled by another user or users. I am told that server is called ‘Langley’ and is based at the Saanich Municipal Hall. I was never informed of this action and it was done without my consent. Without my knowledge someone was planning to spy on everything I did on my computer.
I sought legal advice and was informed that the actions may amount to the criminal interception of private communications under the Criminal Code of Canada.
My legal counsel wrote to Saanich Police Chief Bob Downie asking him to request an external police entity to investigate the allegations as we believe oversight of the investigation places Saanich Police in a clear conflict of interest.
We also provided police with three sworn affidavits from individuals with knowledge of the installation of the software.
As we have not yet received a response to the allegations, I consider this issue to be the subject of an active police investigation and will not be commenting further.
But the information provided to me causes me great concern about my private communications and the private communications of citizens contacting me — communications that do not need to be monitored by anyone other than myself.
It is also why I have not felt secure and comfortable working from the mayor’s office. For this reason, and to protect the privacy of anyone trying to reach me, I have been advised to establish an email account out of the district’s domain.
That email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
To the citizens of Saanich, I want to again thank you for your support.
As we move forward, I continue to welcome any advice and guidance my colleagues offer and that they will use their political experience to offer me counsel and help me reach the goals the citizens of Saanich elected me to achieve.
I will meet with each councillor, looking to find common purpose in working together for the betterment of Saanich. As your mayor, I promise that I will work with council to affect positive change in our city over the next four years to prove to you that your trust has been well placed.