B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (Black Press Media files)

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (Black Press Media files)

Judge hears Langley development case that could end in mayor, councillors booted out of council

The conflict of interest case was launched by local voters a year ago

A court hearing that could remove the mayor and two councillors from office in Langley Township began Monday morning in Vancouver Supreme Court.

A group of 10 local voters have petitioned the court to remove Mayor Jack Froese, Councillors Bob Long, and Blair Whitmarsh from office due to conflict of interest. Former Coun. Angie Quaale, who lost in the 2018 election, is also a target of the petition.

The case centers on alleged conflicts of interest caused by campaign donations to the council members from employees of development firms during the 2018 campaign.

The timing of votes on specific development projects related to the campaign donors will be at issue, said Mark Underhill, the lawyer for the 10 voters.

There is no need to demonstrate that the council members or mayor were “on the take” or directly agreed to vote in exchange for a donation, Underhill said.

“What I want to show you is in fact this legislation, the common law, going back over a century, is all about insuring the integrity of local government… and that the electorate can have the confidence that they have, in the words of the case law, ‘the undivided loyalty of their elected officials,’” Underhill said.

Underhill anticipates that lawyers for the council members will say that they always acted in the public interest and that there was no influence caused by the donation.

“We say, with the greatest of respect, those assertions are completely irrelevant,” said Underhill.

READ MORE: Petition aims to remove mayor, councillors in Langley Township

READ MORE: Developer donations still coming in Langley Township despite rule change

Underhill told Justice Paul Walker that the case will focus on the timing of the donations.

The donations, from senior executives and owners of development firms, were made while the developments were “in stream,” or in other words, were working their way through the process of application and consideration by the council.

The money was donated close to the dates of votes on those developments, Underhill said.

“It’s measured, in many cases, in days before or after the votes,” he said. “At the outside a couple of months, three months. But it’s more often the case that it’s days and weeks.”

That is significant because in 2016, the Township councillors received a legal opinion about a previous conflict of interest question.

The so-called Lidstone opinion noted that there was no conflict of interest when a councillor voted on a development put forward by a company or person they had received campaign contributions from in the past.

However, the report noted there might be conflict arrising from donations under some circumstance – including if the development was “in stream” at the time of the donation.

“That is what we say is precisely the facts of this case that is before you,” Underhill said, adding that the council had been “on notice” because of the ruling about exactly this sort of issue.

He also noted that those donations were not disclosed by the councillors until after the election, and they did not seek legal advice from the Township before voting.

The Lidstone opinion raised a “ginormous red flag,” which was ignored, Underhill argued.

Lawyers for Froese, Long, Whitmarsh, and Quaale are expected to make their case starting later in the week.

None of the allegations made in court has been ruled on yet by Walker.

The full hearing is expected to take four days, but scheduling might mean the last arguments are heard on Friday, Dec. 4.

The information about the developer donations was revealed in an anonymously-authored report released in 2019 and publicized by former mayor Rick Green.

A number of other candidates, successful and unsuccessful, also received campaign contributions from various people tied to developers, but were not named in the petition to unseat the councillors.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CourtLangley Townshipmunicipal politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(file)
Two ejected from single vehicle crash in Seabird Island

Landing zone for medevac has been requested

(File photo)
Semi truck and car collide on Highway 1 near Popkum

Slow lane eastbound is now closed as crews wait for tow trucks

Treeplanters from Shakti Reforestation are adding to the forests of Mount Thom Park. (City of Chilliwack)
Treeplanting project in Mount Thom Park will keep Chilliwack forest resilient

So far they’ve planted 2,000 of 80,000 trees planned for popular park on Promontory

Fire damage is seen in the windows of an apartment on Yale Road on April 21, 2021 following a fire there the night before. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack Fire Dept. reminds people again to have working smoke alarms following 2nd blaze in 2 days

All six halls responded to bedroom fire in apartment on Yale Road above restaurant in Chilliwack

Bert Brink Wildlife Management Area was the site of illegally dumped drywall reported on April 19, 2021. (Michael Hill photo)
Another cache of dumped drywall in Chilliwack prompts suggestion to block access

Pile of drywall likely asbestos containing discarded in wildlife management area

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Thousands have converged in Whonnock Lake Park to enjoy the nice weather. (Roxanne Hooper/The News)
Thousands enjoy B.C. park with warnings about social distancing

Portable toilets installed in anticipation of nice weather

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Playland at the PNE is set to reopen this May, with COVID-19 health and safety measures approved by the province. (Website/Playland)
VIDEO: Playland at PNE scheduled to reopen this May to masked customers

British Columbians are discouraged from travelling outside of their local health authority to visit the theme park

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Most Read