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

Just Posted

The leadership team at Johnston Heights Secondary is looking to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society through the Relay for Life, planned as an online and in-person event (following COVID-19 restrictions) for the week of June 1 to 7.
Pushed back a year, Surrey students well on their way to Relay for Life fundraising goal

Johnston Heights Leadership Team aims to raise $6,500 for Canadian Cancer Society

Surrey RCMP in the 4900-block of 148th Street, a short road just off of King George Boulevard, on May 15, 2021 after a male was allegedly assaulted with a “pipe-like” weapon that morning. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey RCMP investigating after person reportedly injured with ‘pipe-like’ weapon

Police investigating incident in the 4900-block of 148th Street

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) (File Photo)
Police watchdog investigating after man found dead in South Surrey following a wellness check

IIO says officers ‘reportedly spoke to a man at the home before departing’

Surrey Fire Service battled a fire at an apartment building in Fleetwood late Friday night (May 14), near 84th Avenue and 160th Street. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
UPDATE: Surrey firefighters continue to work to put out ‘stubborn’ fire

Four-storey building located at 84th Avenue near 160th Street; crews on scene for nearly 12 hours

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Dr. Steve Beerman, of Nanaimo, shows off his Dr. David Bishop Gold Medal, awarded for distinguished medical service. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Most Read