Former Pitt Meadows mayor John Becker will not be practising law for 14 months, after a discipline hearing with the Law Society of B.C.
The tribunal also ordered Becker to pay costs. A decision with written reasons has not yet been released, said Jason Kuzminski, law society director of communications.
Becker was scheduled to face three hearings on three separate citations, including misappropriation of funds, in November. During the process the citations were joined, and the 14-month suspension was a joint proposal by both sides, to address all three citations, explained Kuzminski.
Becker released a statement on Sunday:
“For several years, I have been dogged by allegations of legal improprieties and media coverage, which have hurt my business and health, as well as people I hold dear. To relieve my family and colleagues from further distress – and to protect myself from further mental health impacts – I agreed to a resolution that has now been accepted by the Law Society’s hearing panel, which is a 14-month suspension to begin on March 1, 2021.
“I take full responsibility for the actions for which I have been cited and acknowledge that I failed to properly fulfill my legal obligations at my previous law firm. My actions fell short of the standards expected of lawyers in B.C. When one lawyer stumbles, it effects the entire profession, something I regret deeply. My actions are not indicative of how the vast majority of BC lawyers conduct themselves. I apologize to all my colleagues in the entire legal community.
“Above all, I would also like to apologize to those clients who were prejudiced by my actions. It was not my intention to hurt you, but that does not excuse the impact I had on you. Please accept my sincerest apology.”
Becker’s statement went on to say he has suffered sometimes severe anxiety and depression, for which he has received “medical supports.”
“As you know, mental health issues can contribute to errors in judgement, which I believe played a part in my mistakes and lack of oversight at my previous law firm. All of this was compounded by the stresses that come with a firm growing too quickly, and the fact that I took time away to serve in public office. Again, no excuses.”
One of the citations was for misappropriation of funds, during a period from 2012-2014. Listed in that citation was failure to deliver a bill before withdrawal of client funds, and using pre-signed trust cheques. There was also an allegation of misappropriation or improper billing, involving 205 separate charges. That citation was issued in September of 2018.
A second and third citation were issued in February of 2019. One involved letters which allegedly contained untruthful or misleading information about Becker & Company’s trademark agent status, from 2015 and 2016. It also said during an investigation of complaints, Becker failed to respond fully to the Law Society, or made false representations.
A third citation was for professional misconduct in 2017 and 2018. It involved 199 clients, and said Becker removed their corporate records from “G Legal” without their knowledge, instructions or consent, and failed to provide the clients with accurate information about the location of their records.
Becker was elected mayor of Pitt Meadows in 2014, after having served as a city councillor for nine years. He was beaten by current mayor Bill Dingwall in the 2018 election.
The first citation against him was issued Sept. 25, 2018, and the election was held just weeks later, on Oct.20 that year.