Mayor Jack Froese, along with Councillors Bob Long and Blair Whitmarsh, were the targets of a court case seeking to remove them from office. (Langley Advance Times files)

Mayor Jack Froese, along with Councillors Bob Long and Blair Whitmarsh, were the targets of a court case seeking to remove them from office. (Langley Advance Times files)

Mayor, councillors win court decision and stay in office in Langley

A judge dismissed a petition trying to remove three sitting council members

Langley Township’s mayor and two councillors targeted for removal from office by a court petition will keep their council seats, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled Friday.

Justice Paul Walker dismissed a petition brought by group of 10 local voters to remove Mayor Jack Froese, Councillors Bob Long, and Blair Whitmarsh from office due to alleged conflict of interest. Former Coun. Angie Quaale, who lost in the 2018 election, was also a target of the petition.

“The petitioners have failed to establish that any of the respondents [Froese, Long, Whitmarsh, and Quaale] had a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the impugned matters before them as members of the Township council,” Walker wrote in his decision. “On this basis, the petition must be dismissed.”

Walker also wrote that he accepted the “unchallenged evidence” that the mayor and councillors were acting in good faith and the best interests of the Township when debating and voting.

The case centered on conflicts of interest allegedly created by campaign donations to the council members from employees of development firms during the 2018 campaign.

Under the Community Charter, any group of 10 electors can petition to disqualify a council member due to a conflict of interest.

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

In December, he argued that there was no need to demonstrate that the council members or mayor were “on the take” or directly agreed to vote a certain way 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.

Meanwhile, lawyers J.W. Locke, representing the mayor and councillors, and James Goulden, representing the Township, argued that there had to be link beyond simply receiving a campaign contribution.

“There is nothing unlawful about giving campaign contributions, that’s well established,” Goulden said.

A promise, implicit or otherwise, to vote in a certain way was required in this case, Locke argued.

“I know it may be difficult, but some evidence from somebody who says these votes were tied to these contributions,” he said was required, not just the timing issue. “It’s inferential at best and speculative at worst.”

READ MORE: Judge hears development case that could end in mayor, councillors booted off council

READ MORE: No smoke, no fire, defense says in conflict case that could kick three off Langley Township council

The defense emphasized that there was no traditional financial link between the developers and any of the council members. None of them worked for the developers or had family members working for them.

Walker’s decision said there is a multi-step process in decisions of this sort.

First, the court has to determine if an elected official has a direct or indirect financial interest in a matter they are voting on. There may be some exceptions to the rule in legislation, or the interest may be so remote and minor that it’s considered inconsequential, Walker wrote.

Only after a direct interest in the matter has been established can the courts consider remedies – including possibly removing elected officials from office, Walker wrote.

The electors’ case didn’t even clear the first hurdle, the judge wrote.

He found a lack of a link between the campaign donations and the votes.

“They [the petitioners] acknowledge that they have no evidence to prove that the contributions, which they assert are sizable for municipal elections, in fact influenced the votes cast by each respondent,” Walker wrote.

“Ultimately, the case must be founded on evidence, not speculation,” Walker wrote later in his decision.

CourtLangley Townshipmunicipal politics

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

Just Posted

(Black Press Media files)
Snowfall expected for Lower Mainland on Saturday night, Sunday morning

2 to 5 cm of snow predicted Metro Vancouver, according to Environment Canada

Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man convicted of assault, unlawfully confining woman pregnant with his child loses court appeal

Victim tells court he drove her to Guildford parking lot after he’d ‘grabbed’ her neck and she fainted

White Rock’s fire chief says a Jan. 21 kitchen fire in a third-floor apartment was a close call. (Garry Wolgemuth photo)
White Rock kitchen fire a ‘close call’

Fire chief says incident is reminder to not use stovetop as storage space

North Surrey Minor Football players in action. The club is among Surrey-area recipients of the B.C. government’s Local Sport Relief Fund. (File photo)
COVID ‘relief’ funding for some sports groups in Surrey, White Rock, Delta

‘Without financial support, these clubs are at risk of closure,’ says B.C. government

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Abbotsford Police officers investigate the scene after a pedestrian was struck and killed on Friday morning. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Male pedestrian, 37, killed in Abbotsford after being struck by vehicle

Collision took place in 31800 block of South Fraser Way on Friday morning

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

Fire on Yale Road north of the overpass Friday morning. (Progress file)
Early morning blaze guts Chilliwack restaurant

The fire erupted north of the overpass closing one lane of Yale Road

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Most Read