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Township sues over FOI request
A new battle between the Township of Langley and Jacob de Raadt is underway, with a Township lawyer suing de Raadt and the provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner to keep several secret documents from being released.
de Raadt is a civil engineer who has been representing some residents who oppose the Athenry Development project to build condos and a cultural centre in Willoughby.
He was banned from attending Township council meetings last year following complaints by some council members about his behaviour.
At the time the ban was imposed, de Raadt was told he could not come to council without prior written permission.
He was also warned in writing to “cease publishing or delivering any defamatory or racist communications in respect of the Township, current or past staff or elected officials” and told all future communication with the Township must be directed through Vancouver law firm Bull Housser and Tupper.
At the time, a letter to council from Bull Housser lawyer James H. Goulden claimed de Raadt made a number of “inappropriate” remarks in communications to the Township, including a reference to an unnamed person’s Irish ancestry.
On Aug. 20 of this year, Goulden filed an application with the B.C. Supreme Court Vancouver registry on behalf of the Township to prevent the release of information about a storm water management plan for the Athenry development to de Raadt.
The application seeks to overturn a July 24 order by the Information and Privacy Commissioner that requires the Township to give de Raadt the original version of the plan along with four subsequent revisions.
de Raadt filed a complaint with the commissioner after his Freedom of Information request was rejected by the Township.
The decision by privacy commissioner adjudicator Elizabeth Barker notes that de Raadt was acting for several landowners who “are concerned that the new development will cause flooding on their properties.”
The Township did release the final version of the plan to de Raadt but refused to give up the earlier drafts, arguing that they were exempt from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act because they were “drafts of a legal instrument” between the developer and the municipality.
Barker ruled the reference in the law to legal instruments applies to resolutions, bylaws and a “statutory enactment or decision of public body,” not a contract between a municipality and a developer.
The 12-page Supreme Court petition by the Township lawyer argues that was a mistake and should be overturned.
Under B.C. law, the court challenge automatically stays the release of the documents by 120 days.
The Township lawyer wants that extended “if necessary” to keep the documents secret until the court has ruled on the matter.
No date for a court hearing has been set yet.
When a majority of council voted to ban de Raadt last year, they also voted to have Bull Housser and Tupper send a letter to nine other people who oppose the Athenry project, advising them to direct all future correspondence to the Township’s law firm.
Mayor Jack Froese said the nine were told to go through their lawyers because they had sued the Township and even though they had abandoned the lawsuit, there was still the possibility it could be revived.
One incident that preceded the decision to ban de Raadt occurred in June, 2012 during an argument between members of council and the audience about the sale of Township-owned land in Glen Valley.
When Glen Valley resident Stuart Bucholtz went over his five-minute time limit during his presentation to council on the land sale, Councillor Steve Ferguson interrupted him, saying, “Excuse me sir, we have order in this particular chamber.”
At that moment de Raadt, who was regularly attending council meetings in both the City and the Township, began to clap loudly, and was joined by a couple of other audience members.
Mayor Jack Froese called for order in the room, and all audience members stopped clapping, except de Raadt.
de Raadt has refused to comment on the ban.