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West Vancouver mayor banned from practising law for at least 2 years after admitting to misconduct

West Vancouver Mayor Mark Sager is seen in this photo from his public Facebook profile. West Vancouver Mayor Mark Sager is seen in this photo from his public Facebook profile.
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The mayor of West Vancouver has been banned from practising law for two years after admitting to three instances of professional misconduct.

Mark Sager entered into an undertaking with the Law Society of B.C. this week and the document was posted online Wednesday. In 2022, Sager lost a bid to have the citation anonymized when the law society rejected his argument that his recent election as mayor constituted an "exceptional circumstance."

At that time, Sager told CTV News the allegations in the citation from the law society were "inaccurate and unfair" and that he planned to defend himself at a hearing.

The misconduct he admitted to was related to "the preparation of a former client’s will and his subsequent conduct as executor and trustee of that client’s estate between 2010 and 2020," a summary posted on the society's website says.

The first instance Sager admitted to was acting in conflict of interest by naming himself the executor and trustee of a client's will in 2010 without ensuring his client obtained independent legal advice. In the will, Sager was given "absolute discretion to utilize funds to attend to England to meet with (the client's sister) in the manner that he in his absolute discretion decided was necessary," the undertaking says.

"(Sager) invoiced the estate $162,835.87 for travel expenses between Aug. 19, 2012 and May 2, 2019 and reimbursed himself for the travel expenses from the estate funds. (He) did not seek or obtain approval from all of the beneficiaries or the court prior to reimbursing himself for the travel expenses from the estate funds," the undertaking continues.

Second, he admitted that between 2010 and 2019 he withdrew nearly $45,000 in executor's fees and nearly $27,000 in "care and management fees" without obtaining the proper approval to do so. As part of the undertaking, he agreed to repay the estate half of these fees, before tax, for a total of just over $32,000. 

Third, between 2010 and 2020 he admitted to failing to "fulfill (his) obligations to the law society and/or the beneficiaries," the undertaking says. This failure was two-fold and included a failure to keep proper records and a failure to make and maintain contact with the "residual beneficiaries" of the estate for nine years, the document says.

Sager has also agreed to repay the estate $8,801.03 "representing expenses alleged by the Law Society of British Columbia … to have been improperly charged to the estate."

The practice prohibition comes into effect on April 1 and requires him to resign as a member of the Law Society. He would also have to apply for reinstatement in order to practise again and would bear the burden of proving he is fit to do so.

"As such, the public will be protected as the respondent is not permitted to practise law, act in a fiduciary role arising out of a solicitor-client relationship, or handle any fiduciary property for a lengthy period of time," the undertaking says.

He has also agreed not to apply for membership in any other law society in Canada – which the undertaking says adds an "additional layer of protection" for the public.

Asked about the undertaking, a spokesperson sent CTV News a statement from Sager.

"When I was elected mayor, I committed to leaving my legal practice to devote all of my time to the important issues facing West Vancouver. Unfortunately, complaints to the law society delayed my resignation," it said.

"Five of the eight allegations against me have been dropped and three minor issues have been settled. As of April 1, I will resign from membership with the law society and refocus my complete attention on our community."

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