Court claim accuses B.C. mayor and council of conflict of interest with developers

Court claim accuses B.C. mayor and council of conflict of interest with developers

A group of voters claim conflict of interests should see them removed from office

A group of voters will ask a B.C. Supreme Court judge to remove Langley Township’s mayor and two sitting councillors from office over conflict of interest claims.

The petition to the court was filed Dec. 13 and names Mayor Jack Froese, Councillors Blair Whitmarsh and Bob Long, and former councillor Angie Quaale.

At issue are controversial donations made by senior employees of a number of B.C. development companies during the 2018 municipal elections.

All the candidates received money from employees for at least one, and in some cases several developers, which had projects that were under consideration for rezoning and development permits before council when the donations were made.

The information was revealed in an anonymously-authored report released earlier this year and publicized by former mayor Rick Green.

According to the petition to the court, Froese, Whitmarsh, Quaale and Long “failed to disclose a directed or indirect pecuniary conflict of interest” contrary to the Community Charter.

It asks for an order that the mayor and councillors be disqualified from holding public office until the next election.

Froese said that he couldn’t say much as the matter is before the courts.

“We will be seeking legal counsel,” Froese said.

Long said he hasn’t been able to fully consider a course of action.

“However I will state that I stand firmly on my record as a seven term councillor, sworn to uphold the honour of the position which I do with the highest level of integrity,” Long said.

He said his decisions at the council table are based on community consideration, planning principles, fairness, and common sense.

The Township declined to issue a formal comment beyond noting that the matter is before the courts.

“The issue is not whether there was actually a quid pro quo between the developers and certain members of Council,” John Allan, one of the voters who launched the petition said in a press release. “It is about the appearance of fair dealing, and ensuring that the citizens of Langley can have confidence in an elected local government that is free from undue influence.”

READ MORE: Developer donations still coming in Langley Township despite rule change

READ MORE: Langley Township tackles donation controversy

There were two issues with the donations.

First, under rules that came into effect for the last civic elections, corporations and unions were barred from making donations to political campaigns. But there was no way to ban multiple senior staff members at a single company from making donations, up to the maximum of $1,200 per person.

Second, many of the donations were given while companies such as Vesta, Mitchell Group, Beedie Group, Polygon, and others were in the midst of rezoning applications for housing developments. Some donations came days or weeks before or after significant votes.

All the politicians involved denied that the donations had any impact on their decision making, and a lawyer for the Township, Don Lidstone, issued a legal opinion on the matter.

“In my opinion, unless there is direct evidence linking the campaign contribution to the council member’s vote… it is unlikely a court would find they had a pecuniary conflict of interest with respect to the matter.”

However, both the current petition to the court and the earlier anonymous report reference another opinion by Lidstone, this one dated to 2016, in which he said. “There could be a conflict if… the development was in-stream at the time of the election, or if the developer made a contribution after the rezoning application was made.”

None of the allegations in the petition have been tested in court.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

City CouncilCourtLangleyLangley Townshipmunicipal politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Pacific Rim Whale Festival is breaching for a COVID-safe return in March. (Poster photo by Owen Crosby)
Pacific Rim Whale Festival aims for virtual return in March

Educational celebration scheduled to arrive in Tofino-Ucluelet on March 15.

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

JJ Belanger is running for mayor in Tofino’s March 6 byelection. (Photo courtesy of JJ Belanger)
Belanger enters Tofino’s mayoralty race

Belanger is former chair of Tourism Tofino and current general manager of Crystal Cove Beach Resort.

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.

Most Read