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

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

Jamie and Erin O’Neill, who are renting a 107-year-old house at 45837 Knight Rd., are wanting to save it from the wrecking ball and move it when it comes time for the owners of the house to build a new house on the property. They are pictured here outside the home on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack couple wants to save 107-year-old home from demolition, asking for community support

O’Neills have less than year to find new property, raise funds to move Knight Road house

Archway Community Services is among local agencies receiving one-time grants through the Civil Forfeiture Crime Prevention and Remediation grant program. (Photo courtesy of Archway)
Nine Abbotsford projects receive $345K in civil forfeiture grants

Funds awarded to projects aimed at prevention of crime and domestic violence

Karl Eha showing off a fishing rod that was originally made in 1972. Patrick Penner photo.
Mission’s Eha Sports offering store credit for old fishing gear, plans to donate to poor Latin American children

Karl Eha recalls time as hungry kid in post-war Germany, says fishing kept him full

Vehicles line up for the Greater Vancouver Drive-Thru Food Truck Festival at the Chilliwack Coliseum parking lot on March 27. The touring event comes to Abbotsford this weekend, May 15 and 16. (Photo: Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress)
Drive-Thru Food Truck Festival takes place in Abbotsford

Event runs May 15 and 16 at Tradex, featuring 12 trucks each day

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

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

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

Most Read