Santos denied security clearance, resigns from Winnipeg Police Board

Acting deputy mayor Vivian Santos’ tenure on the Winnipeg Police Board has gone up in smoke.

In a letter to city council on Tuesday morning, Santos said the Winnipeg Police Service denied her security clearance, ending her police board aspirations.

“Due to strict police policy, the reasons for the denial will never be disclosed to me or anyone else,” Santos said in the letter. “As well, the police will neither confirm or deny a security clearance check was conducted.”

Santos said she has never been arrested or charged under the criminal code.

“I have been a law-abiding citizen my entire life, and this information is very disconcerting, and putting unfair stress upon me and my family,” she said. “Therefore I will need to immediately resign from the board.”

Coun. Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River) chair of the Winnipeg Police Board said he was disappointed by the result of Santos’ background check, and that her experience in the downtown area made her a good candidate.

“And it’s not on her,” Chambers said. “It’s more of a family member that would present as a risk in terms of the information that gets disseminated back and forth between the board and the service. Again, the police won’t disclose that. There is sufficient concern that would present as a risk that would disqualify her from serving on the Winnipeg Police Board.”

During a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, Santos said she was “absolutely surprised” and had nothing to hide, reiterating her lack of arrest or criminal record. In the process of applying for the police board position, Santos said she had to disclose her family members and children on the application.

Coun. Markus Chambers, Chair of the Winnipeg Police Board, at City Hall on Tuesday. Chris Procaylo / Winnipeg Sun

When asked by the Winnipeg Sun if she was associated with persons involved in the drug trade, Santos said it was “all speculation,” adding the police service is keeping her in the dark.

“Yeah, again, you know, guilty by association … is that warranted?” she said. “I wish the police would have told me. We don’t know if that’s true or not. I mean, are you guilty by association?”

Santos said there have been other board members who’ve been affiliated with accused people, noting the rumor is hearsay. She said that being on the police board would have given her a voice.

“At the same time I think I could still continue to do that work, that advocacy for my constituents,” she said. “I still have direct access to the chair and the chief. I can always make presentations at the police board. Those are the routes that I will be doing.”

When asked by a member of the press about whether or not she is friends with someone charged with trafficking in controlled substances, Santos said. “To be honest with you, I don’t even know if he’s been charged. I don’t get into other people’s personal life.”

Santos explained to the press that she’s not a bad person and does not have skeletons in her closet, adding that she’s an “open book.”

“It does bother me to have this rain cloud over me and my family,” she said. “I’ve been trying to wrack my brain the last couple days to figure out what could possibly go wrong.”

When asked by the Winnipeg Sun if it’s acceptable for an elected official to associate with people in the drug trade, Santos said “I’m sorry, I don’t know why this has anything to do with my resignation.”

Mayor Brian Bowman said in a statement that he appreciates Santos’ transparency, and looks forward to Council’s nomination of a new police board member.