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

Clearwater mayor unimpressed with Forest Minister’s inaction on local tenure transfer

Mayor Merlin Blackwell says he’s ready to lead delegation to Victoria

Editor, The Times

Local vet valued for compassion and professionalism

Editor, The Times

Re: The World Thru the Eyes of the Rambling Man

Last weekend on the ice

This week’s featured player is #6 Zoey Fehr from the Clearwater atom Icehawks

District councillor trying to bring Men’s Sheds to Clearwater

Men’s Shed program gives members the opportunity to socialize and take on community projects

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay B.C. man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

‘A horror show:’ Ex-employee shares experience at problematic Chilliwack seniors’ home

Workers are paid below industry standard at all Retirement Concepts facilities

Forest industry protests northern B.C. caribou protection deal

B.C. Mining Association supports federal-Indigenous plan

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

Trudeau: Time for blockades to end and Indigenous leaders to work with government

Prime minister says situation in Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute is ‘unacceptable and untenable’

RCMP clarifies stance on removing officers from Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Police say will remove officers only if hereditary chiefs keep road open to pipeline workers

Most Read