Coun. Sean Chu defies calls to step down despite outrage over admitted sexual contact with teenage girl

Embattled Calgary Coun. Sean Chu said during a press conference Thursday that he will not resign.

"I will continue to serve as the Ward 4 city councillor," he said, adding that he disputes "some of the information reported in the media."

Chu, who won the Ward 4 seat by 52 votes in Monday's civic election, has been urged to step down after information came to light that he admitted to a sexual encounter with a 16-year-old girl while serving as a Calgary police officer more than 20 years ago, when he was 34 years old.

According to the transcript of a disciplinary hearing, it was alleged that "on or about Aug. 12, 1997, Const. Chu became intimately involved with the young person who was 16 years old at the time," and she had met him, "while he was on duty, in uniform, and in a position of authority."

Chu admitted to "caressing" the girl on the leg in a public restaurant while in uniform. He told the hearing he "participated in consensual sexual foreplay" with the girl in the living room of his home while he was off-duty and not in uniform.

Under Canadian law, a 16-year-old cannot consent to sex with someone who is in a position of authority over them.

No criminal charges were laid but, according to two Law Enforcement Review Board (LERB) decisions, Chu was investigated by CPS’ professional standards section for allegedly bringing the girl into his home in those early morning hours 24 years ago, and for alleged misconduct in his actions with the girl.

The documents also reveal that the teen alleged Chu sexually assaulted her.

Chu, who served as a member of CPS from 1992 to 2013, was charged with two counts of discreditable conduct and was convicted of one count.

The internal documents state that the conviction was in relation to him touching the girl's leg. He was given a letter of reprimand on his CPS file for five years, which expired in 2008.

In an earlier statement to CTV, Chu said that during the investigation he underwent a polygraph test, at his request, which confirmed his account. He says, "It is not unusual for police officers to be subject of unsubstantiated complaints, but a complete and thorough process was conducted which found this complaint to be without merit.”

At his Thursday press conference, Chu questioned the timing of the release of the information, which came days before Monday's civic vote. Chu also offered an apology to the then 16-year-old.

"It was never my intention to cause any harm," he said.

Premier Jason Kenney has called on Chu to offer proof of his denials, or step down, and on Thursday, Calgary mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek said she will refuse to administer the oath of office to Chu at Mondays' swearing in ceremony.

Janis Irwin, the NDP Opposition Status of Women Critic, wrote an open letter to the province calling for an inquiry and UCP MLA Leela Aheer has also called on Chu to resign.

Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel, a longtime ally of Chu, issued a statement earlier this week saying she withdraws her support and had removed him from her consituency association.

Chu also addresssed a 2008 domestic incident, when he got into an argument with his then-wife, who he said went to a neighbour for help to calm him down. That neighbour called police, and a firearm in Chu's basement, a sport rifle, was seized.

"After this incident, I chose to seek counselling for my mental health and stress," he said. "This was a private family matter and this story being used for political motivations has only brought emotional stress to my family."

A protest is also planned outside Calgary city hall on Sunday afternoon to call for Chu's resignation.

MCIVER RESPONDS

Provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs RIc McIver issued a statement  early Thursday evening, in response to suggestions that the province could remove Chu from his position by implementing the Municipal Government Act.

McIver said he consulted with department officials, who said the provisions in the Municipal Government Act are relevant to the actions of someone while they are serving in public office, and "were not developed to address personal conduct of an elected official dating back many years before that individual entered public office, and it is questionable whether they could be used effectively in the current situation." 

Here is McIver's statement in full:

“The allegations against Sean Chu are very serious. Any time an impropriety is alleged against a minor, the situation immediately becomes even more severe.

“Contrary to what some have suggested, the Minister of Municipal Affairs cannot simply arbitrarily ‘fire’ an elected municipal official. But following recent revelations regarding Councillor-elect Chu, I asked non-partisan department officials to review the Municipal Government Act to verify what legal recourse – if any – exists for the Minister of Municipal Affairs.  

“The expert advice I have received from officials states that the tools within the Municipal Government Act – both an ‘inspection’ and ‘inquiry’ – are focused on wrongdoing committed by a council or councillor while performing their duties with respect to the operations of a municipality. These elements within the law were not developed to address personal conduct of an elected official dating back many years before that individual entered public office, and it is questionable whether they could be used effectively in the current situation.  

“The Municipal Government Act is very clear on the issue of a Criminal Code (Canada) conviction. Councillors convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment for five or more years or of an offence under sections 123, 124 or 125 of the Criminal Code (Canada) are disqualified from office and must resign immediately or may be removed by application to the court. However, that criteria does not apply in this matter as no conviction exists.

“That said, I fully recognize the justifiable public interest in this unprecedented situation. Because of the extremely unique circumstances involving Calgary City Council and Councillor-elect Chu, and the lack of clarity for recourse in the Municipal Government Act, I have asked for outside, independent legal counsel to review the legislation and provide expert advice on what action – if any – the Minister of Municipal Affairs may legally take. 

“Because of the importance of integrity and transparency, I fully intend to make this expert advice public, and I have asked this review to be completed as expediently as possible. Further details about this process, including the firm selected, will be released in the coming days.”