Surrey residents who’ve lodged complaints against a city councillor under the Council Code of Conduct Bylaw are disappointed that their grievances have been dismissed with no explanation why.
The complaints were tied to Mandeep Nagra’s family purchasing a bowling alley, Scottsdale Lanes Ltd. at 12033 84 Ave., and him voting on a project to connect 140 Street and King George Boulevard with a new stretch of 84 Avenue at the southern end of Bear Creek Park. The city plans to eventually join Scott Road with Fraser Highway by way of 84 Avenue.
“Based on the investigation I think they found out that there was no conflict of interest and that’s the reason they dismissed,” Nagra told the Now-Leader on Tuesday.
Sebastian Sajda, who is running for council with Surrey Connect, raised the question of a “possible conflict of interest” on the basis that more traffic on 84 Avenue will increase business and drive up the value of commercial real estate situated along the road.
Sajda was one of an unknown number of people who filed a complaint against Nagra with the Surrey Ethics Commissioner Office. He said he was told by SECO on May 11 that his complaint has been dismissed.
“The exact phrase is the complaint has been dismissed and that he’s not able to tell me anything about the results of the investigation or any recommendations that were made, literally nothing can be shared with me, it’s just been dismissed,” Sajda said.
“I’m really disappointed,” Sajda said. “If it’s going to be dismissed, it’s important for us to know why it’s been dismissed. From the perspective of a citizen I’m filing a complaint, I get interviewed, I give information and then three months later all I get is ‘It’s been dismissed.’ It doesn’t feel like I’ve been heard or anything’s been explained to me.”
Although he doesn’t know how many complaints were filed, he said, “I know it got to the point that SECO was asking people to withdraw their complaints because it wasn’t helping to have so many of the same complaint.”
Resident Bob Winston said the ethics commissioner told him his complaint duplicated allegations that were already under investigation since October 2021 and told him opening a new file would add unnecessary cost to Surrey residents.
Annie Kaps said she was told her complaint was also “disallowed” but she wasn’t told why.
“We should be able to get a copy of that report, if not in entirety in a summary. But it’s something that they’re not allowing.”
Reece Harding, Surrey’s ethics commissioner, on May 12 told the Now-Leader that “SECO does not speak about its investigative reports publicly. Any information about our investigation reports comes from the City at the direction of Mayor and Council. As such, I would refer you to the City to answer your inquiries about this matter.”
For the city’s part, a statement issued by its communications department, on behalf of Corporate Services, states that “The Ethics Commissioner’s investigation is a confidential matter and therefore the City cannot provide comment.”
According to the office of the Ombudsperson of British Columbia, the Community Charter “prohibits council members from participating in any discussion or voting on a matter in which the member has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter or another interest in the matter that constitutes a conflict of interest.”
Last October, Nagra claimed the property was not put up for sale until months after he voted on the project to connect King George Boulevard with 140 Street by way of 84 Avenue and said he cast his vote supporting the project before the bowling alley, located a block east from Scott Road, was bought.
“At that time this property was not for sale and my family or my brother or we were not aware of any future possible purchase of any sort of property on 84 Avenue or close by. So we bought this property, my brother bought this property, five and a half months after I voted on this,” Nagra told the Now-Leader last October.
The 84 Avenue project is expected to be done over the next five years with the aim of relieving “over-saturated” traffic on 88 Avenue and 72 Avenue and ultimately, to connect Scott Road to Fraser Highway via 84 once this project is completed and a stretch of 84 between 124 and 128 streets is also connected.
Sajda noted the City of Surrey is expecting up to 16,000 cars a day driving up and down 84 Avenue once the project is complete.
“You can see that’s a huge boon to a commercial property that’s on the road,” he said.