Langley Township voters petition courts to remove mayor and two councillors
LANGLEY, B.C. -- A group of voters in Langley Township has filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court asking to have the mayor and a pair of councillors removed from office over what they call perceived conflicts of interests surrounding concerns first raised in a CTV News investigation.
In the summer of 2018, campaign finance documents show thousands of dollars flowed from development firm executives to the re-election campaigns of Mayor Jack Froese and councillors Bob Long, Blair Whitmarsh and Angie Quaale.
All of the donations in question were made while council considered redevelopment applications, or neighbourhood plans, where the firms in question had significant projects at stake.
In some cases, the donations came just days before or days after council votes on those same projects, and council minutes show the mayor and councillors who accepted them consistently voted in favour of the developers.
All were re-elected except for Quaale.
Prior to the start of that campaign, Elections BC passed new regulations banning corporate and union donations to candidates in civic elections.
"(Development) planning is important and it should be done with care,” said John Allan, one of 10 people who signed on to the petition requesting the courts look at perceived conflicts of interest surrounding the donations.
Under the BC Community Charter, if the court decides to disqualify the mayor and councillors from office, they can appeal the decision but must step aside from their elected positions while that process plays out.
"We went ahead and did this in the hope that we can get some consideration,” said Allan. “And maybe the province has to look at it. Are there other issues elsewhere in the province? And how do we handle the election finance issue?"
CTV News could not reach the mayor at the Township of Langley Civic Building or his home.
“The Township of Langley can confirm that a number of elected officials recently received court documentation related to campaign contributions received during the last election,” said the Township of Langley in a statement. “As this matter is going before the courts, the Township and the Mayor’s Office cannot comment further.”
Councillor Long declined an interview request.
“I stand firmly on my record as a seven term councillor, sworn to uphold the honour of the position which I do with the highest level of integrity,” he said in a text message.
Councillor Whitmarsh could not be reached, and former councillor Quaale said she had not yet been served and was therefore unprepared to comment.
They each have 21 days from the date of service to respond to the petition.
In 2016, the Township sought out a legal opinion on campaign donations.
“A campaign contribution alone does not establish a financial conflict of interest,” wrote lawyer Don Lidstone. “The exception is where the contribution was a donation made…while the matter is before council.”
The mayor and three councillors who accepted the donations from executives at development firms in 2018 were all on the council that received Lidstone’s legal opinion in June of 2016.