B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (Black Press Media files)

‘No smoke, no fire’ defense says in conflict case that could kick three off Langley Township council

Lawyers argued there’s no evidence of any conflict or vote-for-money deal

There is no evidence of any link between campaign contributions to Langley Township’s mayor and several councillors, and votes on development projects, lawyers argued Thursday as a hearing that could remove a third of council from office continued in B.C. Supreme Court.

The Dec. 3 hearing was the fourth of arguments in a case pitting 10 local voters against Mayor Jack Froese, Councillors Bob Long and Blair Whitmarsh, and former councillor Angie Quaale.

The voters petitioned the court to remove Froese, Long, and Whitmarsh from office, claiming they were in a conflict of interest for taking campaign contributions from development company executives while developments by those companies were under consideration by council.

Lawyer J.W. Locke, representing the mayor and councillors, said there is simply no evidence of a link between the contributions and the way the officials voted.

“There must be a link beyond mere campaign contributions,” Locke argued. “There is nothing unlawful about giving campaign contributions, that’s well established.”

A promise, implicit or otherwise, to vote in a certain way is required, Locke argued before Justice Paul Walker.

There has to be evidence of such a deal, said Locke.

“I know it may be difficult, but some evidence from somebody who says these votes were tied to these contributions,” he said is required, not just the timing issue. “It’s inferential at best and speculative at worst.”

James Goulden, a lawyer for the Township of Langley, spent some time Thursday laying out exactly how the development process functions, and noting that the vast majority of developments put before the council pass.

He pointed to dozens of decisions, including rezonings, development permit hearings, and heritage alteration permits, and discussed how staff make recommendations to the council.

Councillors only see the rezonings and give their final votes after Township staff have worked with the developers, and final votes aren’t held until after public input. In the case of one of the votes at issue, on the Williams Neighbourhood Plan, the planning and input process lasted for three years.

“There’s no smoke, there’s no fire, there’s nothing wrong here,” said Goulden.

READ MORE: Judge hears Langley development case that could end in mayor, councillors booted out of council

READ MORE: Court challenge aims to remove mayor, councillors in Langley Township

Goulden warned of the impacts to the Township if the councillors should be removed from office.

Not only would that remove one-third of the nine-member council, Goulden said it would call into question all 19 decisions the petitioners are challenging as involving conflicts of interest.

“Those may become a significant issue for the Township,” Goulden said. The rezoning and development decisions could be challenged as well.

Mark Underhill, the lawyer for the 10 voters who petitioned the court, wrapped up with some final arguments saying that there was no need to prove a direct deal or agreement of any kind to vote a certain way in exchange for the campaign cash.

He continued to argue that the close timing between votes and donations was enough, and referenced a number of other conflict of interest cases where councillors voted on matters that impacted their employers, business partners, or non-profits they had been members of.

However, Justice Walker questioned Underhill on that subject.

“It [the conflict of interest] arises from the fact of the relationship,” Walker said, and those links were obvious during the trial. “But in this case, we don’t have those types of relationships. You don’t have any of the mayor or the council members… involved with any of the developers.”

They weren’t employees or investors, they didn’t have family members working for the developers, Walker said.

If there was an issue, wasn’t that a matter for the B.C. Legislature to rule on, Walker asked.

Underhill countered that, if there’s no link between timing and votes, there is nothing to stop a developer from turning up at a council meeting and handing out $400 cheques to mayor and councillors immediately before a vote.

But Walker continued to question if timing was relevant.

“Where is the dividing line?” he said.

What’s the difference between a donation two years before a vote and one just days before a vote, Walker said.

The hearing Thursday finished in the early afternoon, and Walker was to hear a few final arguments on Friday morning before considering his ruling.

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

READ MORE: Langley Township tackles donation controversy

BC Supreme CourtCourtLangleyLangley Township

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

LETTER: Langley student crunches some numbers on food production’s eco-impact

Grade 7 students at Gordon Greenwood Elementary were tasked with writing about climate change.

The Langley School District has issued COVID-19 notifications for five schools. (Langley Schools)
Another 5 Langley schools record COVID-19 exposures

As of Wednesday, 15 schools were on Fraser Health’s list

Elmer Patzer, who turned 90 this week, celebrated a distanced birthday with a parade at his home. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Langley senior celebrates distanced birthday with car parade, mascot

At 90, Elmer Patzer just had his second pandemic birthday

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including South Surrey’s Pacific Highway should ‘not be left behind’

Ribfest 2019. (Aldergrove Star files)
Plans for Langley RibFest shelved for second year in row due to COVID-concerns

50/50 Rotary Lottery to continue for second year, potentially worth $250,000, set for Aug. 19

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
UPDATE: 1 of 3 puppies stolen from South Surrey returned to owner

American Bulldog puppy recovered after being sold at Mission car show

Two women walk past ‘The Meeting’ sculptures in White Rock’s Miramar Plaza Wednesday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)
New public art in White Rock faces criticism as the ‘two Michaels’ remain in China’s custody

‘I would encourage people to go out and enjoy it’ said Vancouver Biennale founder

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

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Everett Cummings in a tribute video posted to dignitymemorial.com.
Mechanic’s death at Fraser Surrey Docks leads to $200K fine for company, union says

Photos of rally outside Surrey court posted on ILWU’s ‘Kill A Worker Go To Jail’ Facebook page

Most Read