Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell was asked to step down as chair of the police board Thursday morning after his recent allegations against officers put some board members in an "untenable position."
After a board meeting Thursday, the Saanich Police issued a statement saying the board had asked the mayor to step aside as chair while the B.C. Ministry of Justice responds to a request to investigate his "recent activities."
A stunned Mr. Atwell wouldn't confirm he had stepped aside as chair or been voted out, saying after the meeting he was seeking legal advice on the matter.
"They put in a request to have me condemned, so I've got to look at that," Mr. Atwell said. "I'm certainly not trying to cling to power, but I need to do the right thing."
A spokesman for Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said she would not investigate the mayor's actions.
An e-mailed statement from Ms. Anton said that, under the provincial Police Act, if the mayor is "not able to act in this capacity" as chair, board members may elect an alternate from within their ranks. This can be done by members present at a board meeting.
Mr. Atwell drew national attention after an impromptu news conference Monday where he alleged that municipal staff had installed spyware on his computer without his knowledge, revealed that he had lied to the public to cover up an extramarital affair, accused police of targeting him for traffic stops and asked for two separate investigations by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner into the conduct of the small municipal force.
Mr. Atwell has rejected a police report that concluded this week there was no wrongdoing by the city's IT department. Police said 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.
"It's not personal – I think I can sum it up that way," Mr. Atwell said. "I've got a professional relationship with the police, I've taken some actions as a private citizen and we'll have to see how that's resolved given that I have this role [as chair]."
Despite concerns voiced by councillors that all the media attention is impeding city business during budget season, Mr. Atwell said Thursday that it isn't interfering with his mayoral duties and that he is "still getting done what needs to get done here."
He added that the social media chatter about his controversial first six weeks in office was disconcerting and that comparisons to former Toronto mayor Rob Ford are "definitely a stretch."
"I definitely care what people have to say, but I'm not letting it affect me one way or the other," Mr. Atwell said.
Ross Poulton, acting deputy police complaint commissioner, told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday that his office would take several weeks to investigate whether Mr. Atwell's two complaints warrant a proper investigation.