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

Kent Harrison Search and Rescue brought a man to safety, and awaiting paramedics, after a 20-foot fall down an embankment on Jan. 23, 2020, on Harrison West Forest Service Road. (Kent Harrison Search and Rescue photo)
Rescue crew lifts man up 20-foot embankment near Harrison Lake

Kent Harrison Search and Rescue says this is the fifth call already this year

A mallard duck swims through Salish Pond in Chilliwack on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Snow, rain in forecast for Fraser Valley

Fraser Valley has been treated to more than a week of mostly sunny weather, but it’s about to end

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment, hits milestones in break-out year

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Jan. 24

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Adam Louis/Hope Standard
One Week at a Time: My doors will be open

Reporter Adam Louis introduces himself to Hope and the surrounding communities

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Most Read