A photo taken after the City of Langley Mayor's Gala in January 2020.

It took the RCMP more than five months to start an investigation into allegations the officer in charge of the Langley detachment used overtime to pay back officers who bought tickets to a charity party hosted by the mayor, new documents show.

Mounties say it wasn’t wasted time and “actions were taken” – though critics say the delay is a sign that senior officers may get lighter treatment in the RCMP’s probes into violations of their code of conduct.

“Someone who is a senior ranking member of the RCMP appears to be treated differently than the other lower ranking officers within the organization, and that’s something that really affects the morale of the RCMP,” said former B.C. solicitor-general Kash Heed.

The concerns are the latest fallout for what started as a “Mayor’s Gala” for charity in Jan. 2020, where Langley Mayor Val Van den Broek raised more than $50,000 for Langley Memorial Hospital.

At the time, the gala made headlines for all the right reasons. But it quickly caused headaches as Langley City’s council pointed out the mayor had used the city’s logos on its material without permission, and wondered whether the city had to pay any costs. Photos showed a raucous evening.

The questions prompted a city investigation, and Langley citizens were surprised to find out the head of the Langley RCMP detachment, Supt. Murray Power, had been “temporarily reassigned.” CTV News Vancouver learned a complaint had been filed, alleging that Power had reimbursed officers for the $150 ticket price by paying them in unworked overtime hours.

A Langley city report determined that 54 tickets had been purchased by 35 officers, for a total of $8,100, though it found the members had paid their own way.

An access to information request revealed an email from Power to other officers asking how to “get more members” to attend, and stating that “four hour OT shift (approved by me) is enough to cover the costs of two persons.”

The new document, a code of conduct mandate letter, outlines the investigation to be done and the timeline. It says the commanding officer of the B.C. RCMP, Dep. Commissioner Jennifer Strachan, was aware of the allegations on Feb. 26, 2020.

The allegations, according to the letter, are that Power is alleged to have conducted himself in a manner likely to discredit the force, and that he failed to provide a complete, accurate and timely account pertaining to his duties or responsibilities. The released letter doesn’t identify Power but CTV News has confirmed it is in relation to the case.

The letter says Chief Superintendent Michel Legault, the conduct authority, became aware of the allegations on July 23, 2020 – more than five months after Strachan said she was aware.

Legault tasked Superintendent Bal Brach, the senior investigating officer of the Lower Mainland District, with investigating the allegations on August 10, 2020. During much of the time, Power was still in charge of the detachment.

The BC Civil Liberties Association’s Meghan McDermott said the RCMP should get some leeway because of the pandemic – but not more than five months’ worth.

“Even outside the pandemic, we see the police drag their heels over and over again. To me, this fits into a pattern, especially where it’s a high-ranking official,” McDermott said.

But RCMP Staff Sergeant Janelle Shoihet said as soon as information was received in February, “actions were taken immediately.

“An assessment of the information was conducted and further steps were taken in order to determine the nature of the allegation(s) and actions that could be taken based on the limited information provided,” she said.

CTV News has seen the information provided in a complaint, which clearly outlines the allegation. It says “In essence, the members were attending the gala as a personal favour to Supt. Power or as a personal leisure activity, and then they were having their personal costs reimbursed by Supt. Power with public funds paid out under unrelated file codes as overtime costs.”

Power didn’t respond to questions from CTV News. There has been no finding of guilt on his part.