A city councillor who did not pass a police security clearance says she’s concerned by the public scrutiny facing her family and friends, while she still lacks answers for the decision.
Coun. Vivian Santos (Point Douglas) revealed last week that she failed a security check that was required for her to become a member of the Winnipeg Police Board.
In an exclusive interview with the Free Press on Monday evening, Santos said police still have not revealed why her clearance was denied. She noted she has never been arrested or charged with a criminal offence.
On Monday afternoon, a Global News report linked the security issue to a friend of Santos, a man who has been accused of trafficking cocaine. On two separate occasions, that report states vehicles owned by Santos and her husband were lent to someone who was allegedly involved in the drug trade.
The councillor said she and her husband are no longer associated with the friend in question.
"We’re not associating ourselves with him anymore. We were not aware that he was (accused of) doing any illegal activity and we don’t even know if it’s true. So I think it’s just best if we cut our ties," she said.
Global News states the councillor and her husband were also at one point under surveillance during a police investigation, a report Santos said also came as a surprise.
Jay Marte Santos, a friend who is not related to the councillor, was charged with possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking in March. Police say they found two suspects with 19 kilograms of cocaine, with a street value of $1.5 million.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
The Global story included a photo of Jay Santos at the councillor’s destination wedding.
Vivian Santos said the vehicle loans were simply the result of her husband doing a favour for a friend.
Police have not told her if the friendship played a role in why she was denied the security clearance, she said.
Santos said she is concerned by the public scrutiny of her friends and family members.
"All this information now coming out in the public about my family’s personal life and our friends gives me some really grave concerns because I do have to think about them. My life is an open book. I have nothing to hide," she said.
The councillor said she believes it’s up to a city council vote to decide whether or not to replace her with a new police board member, despite the fact she had considered rescinding her resignation.
She said she’s still considering legal action to clear her name.
The Winnipeg Police Service declined comment on Monday.
The chairperson of the Winnipeg Police Board said background checks are necessary for board members, with whom police must sometimes share sensitive information.
"The police background checks are necessary to manage those risks... so the board (can be) informed to make decisions," said Coun. Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River).
The chairperson said he does wish Coun. Santos had disclosed the friendship in question before council voted to appoint her to the police board in June.
"It would have been a different conversation... It’s about that transparency piece of it," he said.
Chambers said he expects a new Winnipeg Police Board member will be chosen.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.