Breach of trust charges go to B.C. Supreme Court

Grant Sanborn re-elected to hold the trial in the Supreme Court, a move that could delay proceedings for as much as a year.

The breach of trust trial of a former Chilliwack City official that was to start Monday in provincial court has been put over until a new date is set in B.C. Supreme Court.

Grant Sanborn re-elected to hold the trial in the Supreme Court rather than the provincial court, a move that could delay proceedings for as much as a year due to the backlog in B.C. courts.

Defense and Crown lawyers are to meet March 26 with a trial coordinator to set a new date.

A five-week trial on three breach of trust charges was scheduled to start Monday.

But at an earlier court hearing a new defense lawyer for Sanborn asked for an adjournment to give him time to study the case, a request that was denied by Judge Ken Skilnick.

No preliminary hearing was requested by defense counsel when the new trial starts before a B.C. Supreme Court Justice alone, without a jury.

Sanborn, 53, was charged in June, 2010 after a special prosecutor completed a three-year investigation into allegations of improper land-use decisions in Chilliwack.

Special prosecutor Robin McFee was appointed to investigate the case because the allegations included a politician, Chilliwack MLA John Les, who was then the province’s Solicitor General.

Les stepped down when he learned of the investigation, but McFee found no evidence that Les made improper land deals during his tenure as Chilliwack Mayor from 1987 to 1999.

But McFee said he did find evidence to allege three instances of breach of trust by Sanborn between 1994 and 1999.

The special prosecutor alleged that Sanborn gave “preferential treatment” to Les, who was developer of a housing subdivision at Rosebank Place, thus failing to fulfill his public duty as approving officer.

McFee also alleged a “pro-development philosophy” existed at city hall during Les’s time as mayor, which encouraged staff to “find creative solutions to facilitate development,” but he found no evidence that Les or anyone else offered Sanborn any inducement to approve the Rosebank subdivision, or to fear for his job, if he did not.

Although approving officers were appointed by municipal government, McFee explained in a summary of the allegations, their duty was to ensure applications for subdivisions complied with provincial rules and regulations.

The other two counts involve Sanborn’s alleged approval of a subdivision at the Trails at Longthorn Creek, and for allegedly withholding information from city council in his role as Director of Development regarding an application for rezoning at the Rosebank property.

Sanborn resigned as the city’s planning director in June, 2000 to become a private sector development consultant.

He was elected chair of the Cultus Lake Park Board in 2001 and re-elected in 2004.

Last May, Sanborn pleaded guilty to using a forged document to mislead a client into believing an application to the Agricultural Land Commission had been submitted as promised. He received a conditional sentence and one year probation on the charge.