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

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: It’s the highway’s fault!

One component of Vision Zero (our current road safety strategy) is highway design.

Moira Mercer spent her summer riding her e-bike around Cowichan Lake and beyond, collecting any empties she found along the way. (Submitted)
Lake Cowichan 2020 in review — conclusion

What were your top stories from 2020?

Staff meetings can be difficult when everyone has his own agenda. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Garden additions at request of staff

I’ll sow the catnip in flats on the seed table inside

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson column: Snowballs fights and dead spiders

Even if it doesn’t end up how we hope, it’s the trying that matters most.

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Everett Bumstead (centre) and his crew share a picture from a tree planting location in Sayward on Vancouver Island from when they were filming for ‘One Million Trees’ last year. Photo courtesy, Everett Bumstead.
The tree planting life on Vancouver Island features in new documentary

Everett Bumstead brings forth the technicalities, psychology and politics of the tree planting industry in his movie

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Most Read