Langley Township ‘respects’ ruling of privacy commissioner

Langley Township lawyer says handing out draft versions of documents creates dangerous precedent.

The Township of Langley is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to overturn an order by the provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner, even though it has already obeyed the order in question.

Preliminary versions of a storm water management plan for the Athenry Development project in Willoughby were handed over to civil engineer Jacob de Raadt before lawyer James Goulden filed a court application against their release on behalf of the Township.

Goulden, a senior litigator with Vancouver law firm Bull Housser and Tupper, told The Times the documents were provided to de Raadt to show “respect” for the commissioner’s decision while the legal action was launched because the order could set a problem-creating precedent if it is allowed to stand.

“We’re not trying to keep them [the Athenry documents] a secret,” Goulden told The Times during a telephone interview on Thursday.

He said the court application was not a lawsuit directed against either de Raadt or the commissioner, but a petition requesting the court to rule on an “important” issue raised by the order.

The Township application argues requiring it to release the draft versions of the documents sets a precedent that, among other things, could make it difficult for the municipality to keep its position secret during bargaining with outside contractors.

“This issue needs to be decided by the court,” Goulden said.

Neither de Raadt nor the commissioner’s office has replied to the Township court application yet.

No date for a court hearing has been set.

de Raadt, who represents residents opposed to the planned Athenry condos and cultural centre, was banned from attending Township council meetings last year following complaints by some council members about his behaviour.

At the time, de Raadt 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 go through Bull Housser and Tupper.

In a letter to council, Goulden said de Raadt made a number of “inappropriate” remarks in communications to the Township, including a reference to one person’s Irish ancestry.

de Raadt has refused to comment on the allegations.

Council also voted last year 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.

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.

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