Abbotsford mayor’s political opponents suspicious as Braun tries to sell Eagle Mountain lot

Property bought a decade ago in son’s name ‘raises questions,’ but Braun says nothing ‘nefarious’

A vacant Eagle Mountain lot bought a decade ago by Henry Braun and his son has raised the suspicions of election opponents of the incumbent mayor. But Braun says the questions being asked are easily answered.

On Sunday, a website operated by council candidate Vince Dimanno published a story that included series of documents related to a three-quarter-acre property on Eagle Mountain and topped by a headline declaring, “Mayor & Son implicated in collusion on land deal.” The piece itself does not allege any specific wrongdoing, but lists a number of questions it says are raised by the deal.

In an interview with The News on Monday, Dimanno, who said he didn’t write the piece but did take responsibility for it, said Braun must answer questions related to the property, but fell short of alleging misbehaviour. Henry Braun’s son Darren is Abbotsford’s director of development planning and has worked for the city since 2010, the year before his father ran for office.

Ownership of the property was transferred from Darren to Henry Braun earlier this year, around the same time that a prospective buyer had filed an application to reduce a riparian setback on the site. That made Dimanno suspicious. He said the piece was published on the until-recently dormant Abbotsford Today site because it is a legitimate news story. The documents came from a “confidential source,” and Dimanno said the story’s proximity to the upcoming election is merely because that is when the documents were revealed.

“For no reason that I can surmise … Why do you transfer ownership in early 2018, within 30 days of another environmental assessment being done and within 60 days of a developmental application being put forward?” he asked.

The piece suggests that by transferring ownership Darren would be able to involve himself in the file at city hall. It also asks why an advertisement for the property last year suggested prospective buyers could contact the city about subdivision possibilities.

“There may very well be a good explanation, but in terms of perception to the public, it does not look like there is a good answer,” Dimanno said.

Henry Braun said there is a good explanation, and both he and city manager Peter Sparanese say Darren Braun remains uninvolved in the file.

Braun said that even though his son’s name was on the title, the property was purchased with his – Henry Braun’s – money in 2007. Now, Braun said hopes to recoup his investment. He said the decision to transfer ownership was made without much thought and won’t impact the application before the city.

RELATED: Gill said release containing favouritism allegations was ‘booboo’: Braun

“[Darren] stays away from this file and I stay away from it,” Braun said. “If people think there’s something nefarious going on, that’s hard to convince people there isn’t.”

He said the advertisement was created by the realtor and posted without him seeing. Braun said when he saw the mention of subdivision opportunities, he immediately contacted his realtor and got him to remove the reference.

“I said, ‘Get that off there. I’m not doing that.’”

The documents had been shown to The News several weeks earlier, but no one associated with them was willing to go on record to say they were evidence of inappropriate behaviour.

As for Braun’s opponents in the Abbotsford mayoral race, Coun. Moe Gill alluded to Darren Braun’s position in a recent press release, while Eric Nyvall said on Facebook the questions should be answered. But Gerda Peachey said the documents don’t back up the explosive headline of the piece, and linked it to Gill’s previous attempt to cast doubt on Braun’s integrity, a tactic she called “character assassination.”

Questions were also raised about Darren’s involvement in an application to build a transit facility on Gladys Avenue, adjacent to a piece of residential property owned by Henry Braun and his brother. Braun recused himself from the matter, given the proximity of his own property, but his son did briefly speak in his city role during a council discussion of the matter in July.

Sparanese said Darren didn’t have any involvement with the transit property so he could present on the matter.

Dimanno suggested the transit depot increased the likelihood Braun’s property could be used for industrial purposes. But Henry Braun said it will actually negatively impact the value of a site, given its rural residential designation in the official community plan. He noted that the 2016 Official Community Plan process reduced the subdivision potential for the land, decreasing its value. “I never said ‘beep.’ I let the process play out.”

He said the same was true for the transit depot application.

In 2014, lawyers for the city said there was no problem with Braun serving on council and voting on matters recommended by his son. The issue was raised later in 2014 by a local developer shortly before five councillors, including Braun, voted to stop a proposed Agricultural business centre after city staff had recommended the project be denied.


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ground breaking ceremony at site of new Ledgeview Golf Course clubhouse in Abbotsford

Construction slated to start in November with total budget of $6.8 million

SLIDESHOW: West Coast Women’s Show

Largest women’s show in Western Canada returns to TRADEX this weekend

Elizabeth’s Wildlife Centre in Abbotsford could use a boost

Non-profit centre launches online campaign to raise money for upgrades

ELECTION HUB: Candidate profiles, voter information and news for Abbotsford’s ridings

We’ve collected our election coverage in one spot to help you decide who to vote for

Abbotsford school support staff vote 95 per cent in favour of strike

Teamsters Local 31 and school district negotiators to meet with mediator on Oct. 31

ELECTION 2019: It’s so close, it could come down to who turns out to vote

Black Press Media’s polling analyst on the origins of predictive seat modelling in Canada

Jack’s Devils beat Quinn’s Canucks 1-0 in NHL brother battle

New Jersey youngster scores first career goal against Vancouver

Two charged after owner’s wild ride through Kamloops in his stolen truck

Crystal Rae Dorrington, 37, and Derrick Ronald Pearson, 32, facing multiple charges

Kamloops Blazers blank Vancouver Giants

A loss on the road for G-men

Man found dead inside Richmond business, IHIT investigating

Police believe the incident was not random

Judge orders credit union’s bank records for Kelowna social worker facing theft allegations

The man is accused of negligence, breach of contract, fraud and a conspiracy with Interior Savings

Leaders pour it on with rallies, boosts for candidates as campaign reaches peak

The federal election campaign has reached a crescendo

Allegations of racism lead to ministry investigation at Vancouver private school

St. George’s School was contacted over what the school describes as ‘deeply offensive behaviour online’

Not a political question: Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta

Edmonton police estimated the size of the crowd at about 4,000

Most Read