Crown counsel has dropped breach of trust charges against former city councillor Sam Waddington after he completed a so-called “alternative measures program.”
Waddington was in court on Tuesday (Aug. 11) facing two counts of breach of trust by public officer from his time on city council, one offence dated May 29, 2017, the second Dec. 5, 2017.
The charges came about in late summer 2019, two years after questions over approximately $1,500 of Waddington’s expenses emerged, questions that persisted into the 2018 municipal election in which he ran for mayor against former mayor Sharon Gaetz and the winner of that election, Ken Popove.
After several court appearances over the months since September 2019, there was evidently discussion in the background between Crown counsel Kevin Marks, Waddington’s lawyer, and legal advisors for the City of Chilliwack, which is the alleged victim in the case.
On Tuesday, Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel for the BC Prosecution Service, confirmed the charges were stayed (dropped).
“The charges were stayed after the Crown was advised by BC Corrections that Mr. Waddington had successfully completed an Alternative Measures Program authorized pursuant to the provisions of the Criminal Code,” McLaughlin said in an emailed statement to The Chilliwack Progress.
“In exercising his discretion to refer the accused for alternative measures or approve an alternative measures program, the Crown Counsel with conduct of the file is guided by the principles set out in section 717 of the Criminal Code, and the BCPS policy on Alternative Measures for Adult offenders (ALT 1).”
He added that the investigators and city hall representatives were advised of the proposed resolution in advance, a requirement of the alternative measures program.
Alternative measures can mean a lot of things, from compensation for missing money, an apology, or community service. McLaughlin did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about what exactly Waddington was required to undertake to avoid the criminal prosecution.
He has, apparently, apologized and repaid an amount under $900, $46 for a breakfast on one date and the rest on accommodation for another, according to a statement from Waddington.
“I truly regret that my actions have served to compromise public trust in government and potentially affirm the stereotype of what some see as politics-as-usual,” he said in an email to The Chilliwack Progress. “These outcomes are the exact opposite of what I had originally set out to accomplish through my involvement in politics.”
Back in September 2018, an independent auditor was hired by city hall who passed on findings to the RCMP. As it was leading up to the municipal election in which all three were running for mayor, Gaetz and Popove (who was a councillor at the time) recused themselves from a discussion at a special meeting of council to decide to hire the auditor.
“We chose to do so, so that there could be no suggestion it was an attempt to influence the election,” Gaetz said in 2018.
Both Gaetz and retired councillor Chuck Stam previously had filed freedom of information (FOI) requests for details about out-of-town conferences and meetings for which Waddington filed expense claims in 2017.
Some of the people Waddington said he met with came forward to say the meetings never happened.
At that time, he called the “tens of thousands” of dollars of taxpayer money spent to investigate his $1,500 in expenses a political move.
“I don’t believe this effort is administrative, I believe it is political,” Waddington said. “And it’s going to be a very expensive endeavour for the city, so it will be up to the public to decide if this was the right course of action to take.”
In Popove’s statement issued Tuesday in response to the alternative measures and the decision to stay charges he called Waddington’s admitted breach “deeply disappointing.”
“Upholding public trust is an important part of being an elected official,” Popove said. “As a municipal council, we have a duty as stewards and trustees of the public trust and under statutes to see that criminal and municipal laws are upheld. I would like to thank the former mayor and council for being passionate about this and initiating the investigation into Mr. Waddington’s expense claims.
“Mr. Waddington’s breach of our community’s trust is deeply disappointing, but we are glad that he has taken responsibility for his actions and apologized for abusing his position of authority. With his public apology to the citizens of Chilliwack, city staff and members of council, and repayment to the city, we hope to leave this unfortunate time behind us.”
Sam Waddington’s full statement from August 11, 2020 after the resolution of his breach of trust charges:
“I am certainly grateful that this matter has now come to a resolution. I have taken responsibility for submitting two expenses that were in fact ineligible for reimbursement. The first item was a $46 breakfast expense while attending the Renewable Cities Conference in Vancouver in 2017, the second was a three-day accommodation expense for $845.87 following the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference in Ottawa in 2017. I have now repaid the City in full.
“I want to sincerely apologize to the Citizens of Chilliwack, City Staff, and Mayor and Council members both past and present. I truly regret that my actions have served to compromise public trust in Government and potentially affirm the stereotype of what some see as politics-as-usual. These outcomes are the exact opposite of what I had originally set out to accomplish through my involvement in politics.
“While I am no longer facing charges, it’s important to me that I continue to try and make amends with my former colleagues and the broader Chilliwack community. This experience has motivated me to become a better community member. I am enrolled in a Master’s in Leadership program at Royal Roads University, which I started this spring. I have been spending more time organizing and advocating for Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley’s unbeatable outdoor recreation assets. I care deeply about the City of Chilliwack and want to contribute positively to our community.
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