Langley Township tackles donation controversy

Two motions address concerns over political donations and conflicts of interest

Two motions proposed for Monday’s Langley Township council meeting will address a recent controversy over campaign donations from developers.

Mayor Jack Froese and Councillor Eric Woodward have both put forward notices of motion in the wake of an anonymous report that singled out Froese and three other current or former councillors who accepted donations from senior development company execs whose projects were up for consideration by council during the 2018 civic elections.

The report was publicized by former Township mayor Rick Green.

An earlier legal opinion by Township lawyers said there could be a possible conflict of interest for officials if they accepted donations while a project was up for consideration – a process that can take weeks or even months.

READ MORE: Developer donations still coming in Langley Township despite rule change

Another legal opinion, prepared after the report was made public, suggested there would not be a conflict.

Froese’s motion asks for further clarity on spending rules, singling out several specific areas.

The motion asks the Minister of Municipal Affairs to review rules around allowing donations by people with affiliations with companies, organizations, or unions who have an interest in matters before the council; around campaign spending limits covering not just the campaign period, but the longer election period; and about not allowing donations to be exchanged between candidates.

There is currently a $2,400 limit on how much candidates can fund their own campaigns. There is no ban on candidates donating the personal maximum of $1,200 to one another’s campaigns, which could be seen as a boost to the personal amount. In the 2018 election, disclosures showed Woodward and Coun. Kim Richter each donated $1,200 to the other’s campaign.

Woodward’s motion calls for complete release of the most recent legal opinion on conflicts of interest related to donations, and notes a number of possible conflicts between past legal opinions.

It asks for a review presenting “qualified alternatives” to council to determine the potential for ongoing conflicts of interest, including around awarding Township contracts to council members.

Both motions are expected to be debated at the Nov. 18 meeting of Township council.

In 2017, the provincial government laid down new rules for municipal elections, which banned corporate and union donations and set out stricter rules for self-funding and donation caps.

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