A court battle between the Township of Langley and longtime critic Jacob de Raadt has ended, with a B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissing the Township’s lawsuit against de Raadt and the provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner over the release of several secret documents.
In a 22-page written decision filed in the Vancouver court registry on April 15, Justice Bruce Cohen ruled the Township rendered the whole matter moot when it handed over different versions of a storm water management plan for the Athenry Development project in Willoughby before the court could decide the issue.
De Raadt, a civil engineer who represented residents opposed to the planned Athenry condos and cultural centre, went to the provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner when the Township refused to release the original and four subsequent revisions of the plan.
On July 24, 2013, the commissioner ordered the Township to release the documents.
A Township lawyer said requiring the municipality to release the draft versions of the documents set a precedent that, among other things, could make it difficult for the municipality to keep its position secret during bargaining with outside contractors.
The lawyer filed a legal challenge of the Privacy Commissioner decision, but also turned over the documents to de Raadt, saying that was to show “respect” for the commissioner’s decision.
By doing that, the judge ruled, the Township made the whole debate over the documents a “hypothetical issue” and because of that, he was declining to rule on the matter.
But Cohen went on to say that if the Township had withheld the documents and gone to court, he would have ruled in favor of de Raadt and the commissioner and against the petition filed by the Township.
“Although I have found that I should dismiss the petition on the ground of mootness, I wish to add that even had I determined that the court should nonetheless decide the interpretation issue, I would have dismissed the petition in any event,” Cohen wrote.
The judge went on to reject the Township argument that the commissioner made a mistake in law by ordering the documents released, saying the decision “clearly falls within a range of possible acceptable outcomes, which are defensible in respect of the facts and law and should not be interfered with on a judicial review …”
De Raadt and Township council have been at odds many times.
He was banned from attending council meetings and told he could not come to council without prior written permission.
De Raadt was also 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.
Council 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 law firm, too.
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, the case could still be revived.