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

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Delta Police dog retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

A tow truck works to pull a dump truck from a ditch at 176 Street and 40 Avenue, following a two-vehicle incident Tuesday (Jan. 19) afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)
PHOTOS: Dump truck, car collide in South Surrey

Intersection – 176 Street and 40 Avenue – was site of 2019 fatal collision

Police on the scene of a homicide in South Surrey’s Morgan Heights neighbourhood earlier this month. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Crime Stoppers received more than 500 tips related to gang activity in 2020: report

Metro Vancouver organization “urging local residents to keep providing anonymous tips”

In 2017, a member of the Disneyana Fan Club curated a small Community Treasures exhibit at the Museum of Surrey about the early days of Disney and the cartoonist Walt Disney. The museum is now accepting applications for its 2022 Community Treasures exhibition. (Photo: Submitted)
Museum of Surrey wants to spotlight local organizations and clubs

Museum now accepting applications for its 2022 Community Treasures exhibit

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

A child joins the Uke ‘n Play kickoff event at the Chilliwack Library on Oct. 1, 2016. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Events return, in virtual form, at Fraser Valley Regional Library

People can take part in ukulele jam, bullet journaling, reading groups and more

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

People wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 walk past a window display at a store in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, December 13, 2020. The association representing businesses across Metro Vancouver says the costs of COVID-19 continue to mount for its members.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Greater Vancouver business organization says members face uncertain outlook in 2021

Many Greater Vancouver businesses are barely treading water as they enter 2021

Most Read