'There's nothing hidden,' Edmonton police chief says after commission refuses to share audit plan

Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee says he hopes to encourage a respectful relationship between city council and the police commission. (Jay Rosove/CBC - image credit)

Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee is justifying the Edmonton police commission's refusal to share an audit plan with city council, saying there is no obligation "settled in legislation" to do so.

Months ago, Edmonton city council had asked to receive an audit and program service review plan for 2024 from the commission, which oversees Edmonton Police Service.

The police commission declined that request in an April letter, saying the audit plan has been an inward-facing document and that commissioners feel "a public-facing audit program will diminish overall effectiveness."

Coun. Andrew Knack said during Tuesday's city council meeting that he wanted to ask the commission to explain that conclusion but no one from the commission showed up to answer councillors' questions.

City clerk Aileen Giesbrecht told council that in her conversations with the commission, she understood that commissioners would not be attending because the letter spoke for itself.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he appreciates the work of volunteer commissioners, but it was disappointing the commission's professional staff were not there to answer questions.

Several councillors said during Tuesday's meeting that seeing the audit plan would allow them to verify how public money is being spent.

Policing is the city's largest budget item, representing about 15 per cent of tax-supported expenditures.

Coun. Jo-Anne Wright said during the meeting that she thought the audit plan should be made public, "just to ensure that the dollars that we are funding are being used in the most efficient manner."

McFee said Thursday that EPS is "very transparent" and that a lot of information about its resources has already been released.

"There's nothing hidden," he told reporters.

"If we need to start releasing more information to the public, then we have to figure out what it is that we need to release to the public to make people feel more comfortable."

In a statement Thursday afternoon, the police commission said it stands by the decision to preserve its internal audit function because audit material and topics outside of fiscal matters are solely its responsibility.

The statement also said the commission has tried to forge a working relationship with all city councillors.

"On June 6, 2024, the commission formally requested that council meet with the commission and an independent, third-party facilitator to improve our working relationship by examining the roles and responsibilities of councillors and commissioners so that we can move forward constructively for the benefit of all Edmontonians," the statement said.

Asked about repairing the relationship between the commission and council, McFee said he sees his role as "trying to encourage everybody to get in their lanes."

He said he hopes he can try to encourage both entities to respect the other's decisions.

Police commission meetings are public and typically held in person, but last month, the commission met virtually due to safety concerns.

McFee confirmed on Thursday that the commission's next meeting will also be virtual.