Coun. Vivian Santos has resigned from the Winnipeg Police Board, after being denied security clearance by city police.
In an email Tuesday, the councillor for Point Douglas notified colleagues that following a failed security clearance check, she was not eligible to hold a seat on the board.
Santos was appointed unanimously by city council to the police board June 26.
At a media conference outside city hall Tuesday afternoon, Santos said she has not been arrested or charged with a criminal offence, and did not know why police took issue with her sitting on the police board.
She said due to policy, the reasons for her denial were not disclosed by the Winnipeg Police Service.
"I was absolutely surprised," she said. "I have nothing to hide."
Santos said she asked police to see the information the service holds related to her own personal record, and was told those documents would not be provided.
"I don’t have skeletons in my closet. It does bother me to have this rain cloud over me and my family," said the councillor first elected in 2018.
A spokesperson for the WPS said it will not comment on specific security checks.
According to the Police Services Act, before being appointed to a police board, a person has to consent to an investigation into their background and allow the police to check their name against the child abuse registry; determine whether they have been convicted, or found guilty, of contravening a federal or provincial enactment; or have outstanding charges awaiting court disposition.
The city’s Winnipeg Police Board bylaw also stipulates all potential board members have to pass background security checks.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman reaffirmed Santos as acting deputy mayor following a shuffle to his executive policy committee in late-June.
When asked for comment on the decision by police to deny security clearance to a city councillor, Bowman’s director of communications, Jeremy Davis, said the mayor would not have a media availability Tuesday.
In a written statement, Davis said: "(The) mayor appreciates Councillor Santos' transparency and looks forward to council's nomination of a new police board member."
Winnipeg Police Board chairman Coun. Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River) said he learned Friday that Santos had not passed the background check.
"I have every bit of confidence in Coun. Santos and that she is a person of integrity, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for her," Chambers said Tuesday. "I’m extremely disappointed we won’t be able to work together on this file."
In general, Chambers said police identify areas of risk and vulnerabilities while conducting a background check — and will also scrutinize immediate and extended family members, and their spouses.
Chambers said he has not been provided with any such information, but suggested it was possible police flagged a family member as an "area of concern."
"With the information that does get passed between the police service and the police board, we want to make sure there’s no areas of vulnerability," he said. "And as such, councillor didn’t meet the requirements, and we have to move forward with a new appointee."
Speculation her security clearance was denied based on friends, family or associates is hearsay, Santos said.
"I wish police would have told me if that was the case and I could have cleared the air and given explanations," she said. "Guilty by association — is that warranted? I don’t know."
CBC Manitoba reported Tuesday the councillor confirmed to the public broadcaster in March she is friends with a person police have charged with trafficking cocaine.
Asked by the Free Press if she is friends with an individual charged with trafficking a controlled substance, Santos said she doesn’t think that has "anything to do with what’s at hand."
Santos said she has accepted the fact she will not sit on the police board, and couldn’t comment on whether the security clearance process is appropriate without knowing why she was denied.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.