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Richard Atwell

The rookie mayor of Saanich has filed a second complaint against his police department, escalating his campaign to show that he is a victim of spying and harassment by police and municipal workers.

Richard Atwell, who was sworn in as mayor of the district in December, was elected as a political outsider, best known in the community for campaigning against the region's sewage treatment plan. The former software developer ousted a long-time incumbent by promising a fresh style of open government: In a statement this week, he described his victory as historic, "a tidal wave of change in the leadership of Saanich."

In the six weeks since he was sworn into office, that change has stirred up a string of controversies that are dominating business at city hall at a time when most municipal authorities in B.C. are busy fine-tuning budget decisions around property tax rates and other matters.

On Monday, Mr. Atwell called a news conference to allege that the municipality's information technology staff installed spyware on his computer without his knowledge.

He also revealed that he lied to the public to cover up an extramarital affair, accused police of singling him out for traffic stops and asked for an investigation by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner into police conduct following a leak to the media in relation to a 9-1-1 call he placed while he was in the home of a campaign worker.

In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Atwell said he rejects a police report that concluded this week there was no wrongdoing by the IT department.

Police concluded that the alleged spyware was in fact security software that was installed on a number of computers at the recommendation of an audit conducted early last year.

The mayor is now asking the police complaint commissioner to conduct a second probe, saying that the Saanich Police Department is in a conflict of interest. If that doesn't produce results, he said, he may proceed with a legal case of his own.

He said the conflict is twofold: The police should not be investigating their employer, and the wife of police Chief Bob Downie, who works in the mayor's office, is one of the "victims" who had the security software installed on her computer.

Despite all of that, he said it is business as usual at City Hall. "The business of council is happening on a regular basis. I wouldn't say I am at war with council, but I am bringing facts to the attention of authorities."

However, Bruce Carter, chief executive of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, says municipal government affairs in Saanich are stalled. Even a standard request for a proclamation to mark Chamber week has gone unanswered, and since the mayor forced out the district's top bureaucrat, not even an acting administrator has been named.

"So I wonder how the budget process is going," Mr. Carter said Wednesday. "We are in the process of meeting with all the newly elected mayors in the region to discuss priorities around property tax rates, affordable housing, regional transportation. … We're not really in a place to have those discussions in a meaningful way with Saanich."

He said Saanich councillors are frustrated about the inability to focus on their regular duties. "There is a very short window, given the budget period, to start working together before the city is challenged," he said.

Ross Poulton, acting deputy police complaint commissioner, said it will likely take several weeks to determine if there are grounds for an investigation by his office. "We have to do some digging around to ascertain what exactly he is concerned with here," Mr. Poulton said.

He said complaints around improper disclosure of information by police are common, but coming from the chair of a police board puts it into uncharted territory. "Nothing jumps to mind that we have been down this road before."