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ABC Vancouver votes to keep Ken Sim on Vancouver police board

Selection of mayor came despite challenge from Green Party's Pete Fry.
Mayor Ken Sim will remain on the Vancouver Police Board, but whether he returns as chair will be a decision of the board, which is scheduled to meet publicly June 20.

All seven ABC Vancouver councillors voted Tuesday to have Mayor Ken Sim remain on the Vancouver Police Board, despite efforts from opposition politicians to appoint the Green Party’s Pete Fry.

The 7-3 vote came after ABC Coun. Rebecca Bligh successfully moved a motion to have Sim keep his seat on the board. Bligh didn’t explain why Sim should continue to serve on the board, but colleague Sarah Kirby-Yung did, citing recent changes to the Police Act.

“Having the mayor of the city [on the board], particularly during this transitional period, provides some benefit,” said Kirby-Yung, whose spouse is a senior-ranking officer with the Vancouver Police Department.

Sim automatically became chair of the police board when he was elected mayor in October 2022. Recent changes by the provincial government to the Police Act now allow councils to select one of their colleagues to the board.

The changes also allow a board to choose a chair and vice-chair.

Fry, his Green Party colleague Adriane Carr and OneCity’s Christine Boyle opposed Sim’s reappointment, largely because of the Vancouver Police Union’s endorsement of ABC Vancouver during the 2022 election campaign.

The union’s support came after ABC Vancouver promised in their campaign to hire 100 police officers and 100 mental health workers. ABC won a majority and has since boosted the department’s operating budget, which has led to a recruiting drive.

'Pretty serious'

During debate, Fry referred to a Glacier Media story that detailed reasons why Faye Wightman resigned Jan. 30 as a board member. Wightman alleged interference in board matters from Sim’s political staff, although the mayor’s office has denied the allegations.

“This actually does a disservice to the Vancouver Police Department by politicizing the role,” Fry said. “The allegations made by Faye Wightman were pretty serious and, indeed, quite credible, and I think that they bear reflection.”

Fry said police officers reached out to him recently and suggested he should be appointed to the board. In voting down a recommendation from Carr to appoint Fry, Kirby-Yung suggested Fry had previously voted to “defund” the police department by 50 per cent.

Fry told Kirby-Yung she was “categorically wrong.”

“I believe the vote you're referring to was when we were in the midst of COVID and we talked about a 10 per cent haircut of all departments across all city sectors,” he said. “There was no vote to defund the police by 50 per cent, so [I’m] setting that record straight.”

Sim in London, England

Regardless of the debate, Sim keeps his seat.

Ironically, he could also gain more power by not serving as chair.

Under the old rules, a mayor who doubled as chair could only vote in the event of a tie and could not move motions. Although it was unclear at deadline, that rule will likely not apply to Sim, if he doesn’t return as chair.

Sim was at a tech conference in London, England during Tuesday’s debate and unavailable for comment.

His office told Glacier Media last week in an email that Sim believed the role of chair would be better served by someone who could devote more time to the position.

Sim has missed a few meetings since he became chair, including his inaugural meeting, where he was to be sworn in; he was attending the FIFA World Cup at the time, a trip booked before he was elected mayor.

None of the serving board members are elected, with one person — Lorraine Lowe — appointed by the city and the rest by the provincial government. Police Chief Adam Palmer and his deputy chiefs attend board meetings but are not members of the board.

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