Fox, Green dispute payment of legal bills

Mayor Rick Green’s latest statement has cast a new light on the bill that taxpayers are footing for legal fees, which mounted after he got into hot water for misleading council and revealing information from in-camera meetings.

These led to Green’s censure by council, his removal from Metro Vancouver positions, and an RCMP investigation.

Green said on Tuesday that Township council members refused to indemnify him for his legal defence of their accusations that he violated provincial privacy laws, after he admitted in an in-camera meeting that he had misled them.

He sought to be compensated for the $20,000 it cost him in legal fees as an RCMP probe went all the way to the Criminal Justice Branch of the provincial government, before a special prosecutor determined on Sept. 9 that charges would not likely lead to a conviction.

But one councillor reveals another side of the story, namely that council members were compelled to seek their own legal protection after Green’s lawyer indicated that Green might take legal action against them.

The probe, announced in January, centred on comments which the mayor made last year relating to Brownshak Developments. At that time, Green revealed that in 2009 he had received an anonymous letter and copies of corporate records relating to Brownshak.

He claimed that these documents might support allegations of improper conduct by 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.

When the Brownshak issue first came up in 1996, then-Conflict of Interest Commissioner Ted Hughes found that allegations of conflict against Coleman (referred to in the literature received anonymously by Green) were without foundation. In 1997 and 2010, the Township’s legal council reviewed the Brownshak matter and found no wrongdoing by any of the parties.

Green himself denied any wrongdoing in the Brownshak documents affair.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Green said that what has transpired over the past two years “has been a complete disservice to the residents and taxpayers of the Township of Langley.”

In the face of a fragile economy, pressing community needs and the need to keep taxes as low as possible, “the politics of control have been allowed to take precedence over the needs of our community,” he said.

On Sept. 9, special prosecutor David Crossin said there was “no substantial likelihood” of a conviction if Green was charged with an offence.

The police investigation was prompted by the possibility that Green breached the Privacy Act and Community Charter over statements he made that referred to in-camera meetings. He was censured by council, and stripped of his Metro Vancouver responsibilities for the remainder of his term.

Green said that the episode “has been nothing short of an orchestrated taxpayer-funded political attack that has taken close to two years to play out. The actions by members of this council have cost you, the taxpayer, close to $100,000. It has cost me personally over $20,000 (in after-tax dollars) to defend myself against erroneous charges.”

Green asked council to pay his legal fees. They refused.

Councillor Charlie Fox, however, shed a different light on the issue of council refusing to compensate Green for his legal fees, while he and other council members agreed to be compensated for theirs.

Asked why council members sought legal counsel, Fox told The Times on Tuesday it was “strictly on the premise that the mayor’s legal counsel indicated the potential for legal action against myself and my fellow councillors.”

Fox said that what Green was doing amounted to asking taxpayers to not only reimburse his legal fees to defend himself, but also to bring a claim against the rest of council.

“I think that is the hypocritical nature of this whole thing,” Fox said.

The Times’ FOI request for all documents relating to the Lidstone report into Green’s conduct was denied earlier this year. A further request by The Times on Tuesday is still pending.