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

VIDEO: Saanich councillor takes residents along for virtual e-bike ride through the CRD

Coun. Colin Plant is taking route requests for future cycling videos

Innovative free fitness program targets Victoria Royals fans

Program shows impressive results during follow-ups with the men who participate

Personal, business bankruptcies down in British Columbia

New 2019 figures were released before COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. announces $3M for food banks to increase capacity during COVID-19

It is not clear how much of the money will flow towards Greater Victoria food banks

North Saanich drops speed limit on Lands End Road

Speed limit along the road drops to 50 km/h from 60 km/h

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

World COVID-19 update: U.S. expects 100,000 deaths; Oregon declares disaster

Comprehensive update of world news for Sunday, March 19.

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

‘There is community’: B.C. councillor welcomes new baby into world amid COVID-19 pandemic

‘I realize there’s much more than fear and worry… there is hope, there is new life’: Jason Lum

Most Read