Council partially lifts privilege to allow police investigation to proceed

Langley Township Mayor Rick Green chaired Monday’s afternoon council meeting.

A written record of a closed-door meeting by Langley Township councillors reveals a police investigation of Mayor Rick Green was prompted by an anonymous letter alleging breaches of the Privacy Act and Community Charter.

The special Jan. 31 meeting was called after the police probe into alleged improper behavior by the mayor became public.

Under the heading “Investigation Relating to Anonymous Letter,” the record shows councillors voted to partially lift a legal veil of protection that would have prevented them from answering police questions during the investigation.

It does not reveal who voted for or against the measure, nor does it add any more information about the anonymous letter beyond the brief reference in the heading.

The written resolution was disclosed without comment during Monday afternoon’s regular meeting of Township councillors.

It states that the RCMP are “investigating a complaint arising out of the alleged disclosure of information contrary to [section] 117 of the Community Charter and [section] 33 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”

The officer conducting the investigation has already asked to interview councillors about the matter and has indicated he may want to interview Township staff as well, the written record shows.

That poses a legal problem because it “would entail the disclosure of information that is protected by solicitor client privilege and that is subject to the duty to respect confidentiality contained in … the Community Charter,” council was advised by Vancouver law firm Lidstone and Company.

The law firm has been advising the municipality about the issue since at least May of 2010.

In the closed-door meeting, an undisclosed majority of councillors voted to lift the legal confidentiality protection specifically from a May 17, 2010 report by Lidstone, an October 12, 2010 opinion letter from the law firm and to generally waive confidentiality “solely in respect of matters referred to in [Commercial Crime investigator Cpl. Chuck Kolot’s] questions to allow members of council, staff and certain lawyers hired by the Township to answer RCMP questions.”

The RCMP’s Surrey-based Commercial Crime unit is conducting the probe.

The investigation concerns Green’s public statement on Sept. 14, 2010, made the day after he was publicly censured by council over his conduct.

He had told council in a closed-door session in 2009 that he had received an anonymous letter and copies of corporate records about Brownshak, a small Langley developer at the centre of a political controversy.

Green claimed that these documents might support allegations of improper conduct of Brownshak and its principals, who were the wives of realtors Joel Schacter and Bob Bailey, and of MLA Rich Coleman and Township administrator Mark Bakken.

Brownshak was a limited company, and its only purchase was an Aldergrove townhouse. The principals relinquished their assets in 2003.

The allegations were found to be groundless.

At the Sept. 14 press conference, Green admitted that he had misled council at the emergency special closed door meeting which he had called on Oct. 29, 2009. He had wanted council to consider information he claimed he had received only the previous day, in that anonymous letter.

As it happens, he had known about the Brownshak documents since August, 2009.

According to a Township press release dated Sept. 13, 2010, Green apologized to council at closed meetings on both May 17 and June 14, 2010.

His apology followed an investigation of the whole matter by Lidstone and Company, which concluded that he had misled council and had prior knowledge of Brownshak. That investigation cost $69,000.

– with files from Natasha Jones