Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker at his law office. (News files)

Law society issues citation about Lower Mainland mayor

John Becker involved in lawyer complaints and discipline process

The Law Society of B.C. is investigating complaints against Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker, who is also a lawyer.

The society issued a citation dated Sept. 25 . It includes allegations of misappropriation of client trust funds, failing to deliver a bill and other conduct that, if found to be valid, constitutes professional misconduct or breach of the Legal Profession Act, according to the citation.

Allegations in a citation are unproven until a discipline hearing panel has determined their validity.

No date has yet been set for the hearing, but a spokesperson for the law society said it is “highly unlikely” to be completed before the Oct. 20 municipal election.

Becker is running for re-election.

Dave Jordan, with the Law Society of B.C., said complex cases can involve hundreds, if not thousands of documents, and take a year or longer to get to a hearing.

The latter will be public, held at the law society offices in downtown Vancouver.

The citation was authorized by the law society’s discipline committee. The society website explains a citation is issued where a lawyer’s alleged conduct is serious. The citation lists the allegations against the lawyer that will be the subject of the public hearing and ruling.

A citation may result in discipline, including fines or suspensions.

The complaints have been investigated, sent to a discipline committee, and a determination made to issue a citation said Jordan.

“There are allegations that funds, some years ago, were moved without complying with law society rules,” Becker said of the citation.

Becker added that his firm administers approximately $500 million per year in thousands of cheques and transactions, and the law society has identified “a few dozen” that it wants to review.

“Over a series of time, our internal checks and balances had changed,” said Becker, adding that personnel at his firm had changed, and there was a “transition period.

“My main concern is for my family and co-workers in this process,” he added.

Becker also said the allegations have yet to be proven, and that he is confident that it will be shown that all of them are unwarranted.

Becker was first elected to council in 2002, but had a three-year absence from 2011-2014.

According to the citation, the alleged conduct that is subject of the inquiry is listed in eight points:

• Between approximately Feb. 6, 2012 and Sept. 3, 2014, Becker misappropriated or improperly withdrew or authorized the withdrawal of client trust funds contrary to law society rules, being some or all of the 44 charges to clients paid from trust, “when you knew or ought to have known that those charges were not properly charged to the clients.”

• Between approximately Dec. 11, 2011 and Jan. 4, 2012, he authorized withdrawal of client trust funds to pay fees or disbursements in relation to one or more of the two clients without delivering a bill to the person charged, contrary to the Legal Profession Act or without first preparing and immediately delivering a bill to the client contrary to law society rules, or both.

• Between approximately Jan. 2012 and Sept. 2014, he failed to exercise due care for the preservation of funds held in trust by having 70 blank, pre-signed trust cheques in the custody of an employee or employees, contrary to law society rules.

• Between approximately Jan. 2012 and Sept. 2014, he misappropriated client trust funds or improperly withdrew or authorized the withdrawal of client trust funds contrary to law society rules, being some or all of 205 charges, “when you knew or ought to have known that those charges were not properly charged to the clients.”

• In the alternative to the allegation above, between approximately Jan. 2012 and Sept. 2014, he issued accounts in relation to some or all of the 205 clients that improperly billed for disbursements by charging for disbursements not actually incurred, or by charging amounts for disbursements that exceeded the actual amount of the disbursement.

• In or about April 2013, on one or more occasions, he improperly withdrew or authorized the withdrawal of $5,144.32 held in trust, contrary to one or more of law society rules “when you knew or ought to have known that those funds were being held in trust pursuant to an agreement with opposing counsel not to distribute the funds until a further agreement or court order.”

• On or about April 22, 2013, he failed to report a trust shortage that exceeded $2,500, contrary to law society rules.

• On or about Sept. 6, 2016, he misappropriated $1,572.95, or in the alternative, improperly charged $7,774.84 to the credit card of a former client, “when he had agreed to pay you only $6,201.89.”

After each allegation, the citation states: “This conduct constitutes professional misconduct, or breach of the Act or rules, pursuant to s. 38(4) of the Legal Profession Act.”

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