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

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

Vaccines are expected to become more widely available as the rollout speeds up in B.C. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Sleeves up Golden – vaccine rollout details released

More details about the provincial rollout were released yesterday

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
92 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths: Interior Health

The region is reporting 92 cases after the weekend

Gas prices jumped in Golden to 131.9c this week, a trend that’s supposed to continue into the summer. (Claire Palmer/Golden Star)
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Clovechok concerned as gas prices continue to rise

Fuel prices are supposed to skyrocket this summer as British Columbians await BCUC analysis

(PQB News file photo)
CSRD makes changes to yard waste tipping fee

The change will help standardize tipping fees for yard waste

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has cleared the Lumby RCMP of any wrongdoing after a missing person was found deceased in December 2020. (IIO photo)
Police watchdog says North Okanagan RCMP played no role in missing person’s death

The body was found by a family member shortly after the RCMP suspended their search

The images are of Bald Eagles feeding.
Photos: Birds of prey

Princeton photographer captures compelling photos of a Bald Eagle breakfast

HOPE Okanagan’s Stay at Home Gala will raise funds to help serve Kelowna and Vernon’s vulnerable. (HOPE Okanagan)
Non-profit hosts virtual gala to support Okanagan’s vulnerable

HOPE Okanagan wants to raise awareness and support for those struggling in the streets

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

An off-duty Vernon Taxi driver got a 24-hour licence suspension, vehicle towed, after failing a standardized field sobriety test around 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (John E Green - Facebook)
Vernon Taxi towed after driver suspected impaired

Off-duty cab towed from McDonald’s drive-thru early Tuesday morning

Kamloops This Week
Cause of Kamloops landfill fire may never be known

Fire investigators are dealing with too much destruction in too large an area

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

Most Read