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New West school board chair steps aside amid special prosecutor's investigation

It all started in October 2022 when Gurveen Dhaliwal was spotted at a polling place — somewhere candidates weren't supposed to be except to vote.
New Westminster school trustee Gurveen Dhaliwal is stepping back from her role as school board chair amidst a special prosecutor's investigation into possible election rule violations in the October 2022 municipal elections.

The head of the New Westminster school board is stepping aside as chair amidst news of a special prosecutor’s investigation into possible election rule violations.

Gurveen Dhaliwal has chosen to “take a step back from her role as chair,” vice-chair Maya Russell announced at a board meeting on Tuesday night (June 6).

Russell noted Dhaliwal and the board have asked that Russell stand in as chair.

“As trustee, Gurveen remains absolutely committed to supporting the important work that’s happening across our schools and here at the board table,” Russell said. “We support her in this decision, and we look forward to continuing to work together as we all focus on the work ahead.”

Dhaliwal was not at the Tuesday night meeting.

Complaint lodged over Dhaliwal's presence at polling place

Dhaliwal won election to her second term on school board on Oct. 15 as part of the NDP-aligned Community First New West slate.

Shortly before election day, Dhaliwal came into the headlines after a complaint was filed about her presence at the Queensborough Community Centre advance polling place on Oct. 5, where she was acting as a scrutineer for city council candidate Ruby Campbell.

The Local Government Act prohibits candidates from being at polling stations on election day except to vote.

Jason Chan, campaign manager for the New West Progressives, filed a formal complaint with police on Oct. 9 regarding the incident.

Several days later, Dhaliwal was re-elected to the board, placing sixth in the race for seven seats on the board.

The NWPD undertook an investigation, but little more was heard of the matter until last month.

Special prosecutor announced in May

On May 1, Dhaliwal was appointed a ministerial adviser to Health Minister Adrian Dix. Two weeks later, that appointment was rescinded and she was made a ministerial adviser to Labour Minister Harry Bains.

On May 26, the BC Prosecution Service announced that a special prosecutor,  Vancouver lawyer John Gordon, had been appointed to decide whether to charge Dhaliwal in connection with possible contravention of election rules for the October incident.

The prosecution service said Gordon was appointed on May 4, three days after Dhaliwal’s initial appointment as an adviser to Dix.

A statement from the prosecution service said special prosecutors are appointed to avoid any appearance of "improper influence" over the administration of justice in cases involving elected officials or government appointees. 

Dhaliwal is now on administrative leave from her ministerial adviser’s job.

– with files from the Canadian Press and Bob Mackin, Glacier Media