A legal battle over the outcome of the February 2016 Langley City municipal byelection cost the City $27,000, about half the $55,000 amount it budgets each year for legal matters.
The figures were released by City Chief Administrative Officer Francis Cheung, who said while unsuccessful candidate Serena Oh has been ordered to pay a portion of the court costs, the city does not intend to have the order enforced.
“(Our legal advice was) the process of trying to get the amount would be more than the amount we could recover,” Cheung said.
The drawn-out battle ended with a Supreme Court decision dismissing the challenge by Oh.
The Nov. 30 decision, just posted online, said the leave to appeal a B.C. Court of Appeal ruling against Oh was dismissed with costs, meaning she would have to pay a portion of the City’s legal expenses.
Oh finished ninth out of nine candidates in the election that saw Nathan Pachal take his seat on City Council.
Oh filed an application with the B.C. Supreme Court to have the election declared invalid.
According to court records of the hearing, Oh said she had carried out various “inspections” on March 24, March 29, March 31 and April 1, 2016 of ballots of people “that I randomly picked who voted for me.”
She claimed that their ballots had been destroyed or were not counted and indeed she asserted that “Over 95 percent or over 1,500 to 2,000 ballots have been destroyed or ballots are not counted.”
New Westminster B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown ruled there was no adequate evidence to support Oh’s contention.
“She (Oh) seems to have concluded that people voted, but their votes were not counted or ballots were destroyed or some such, but there is simply no evidence to support that conclusion,” Justice Brown wrote.
The judge also ordered Oh to pay $2,000 of the city’s legal expenses.
Oh then went to the B.C. Court of Appeal.
In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel upheld the Supreme Court decision, saying the lower court “did not err in finding the appellant’s petition, which effectively sought a recount of votes cast in a municipal by-election, was filed too late and that a case was not made out.”
A transcript of the oral decision delivered on behalf of the panel by Justice Mary Newbury shows that during the appeal court hearing, Oh insisted that 123 people had registered and voted for her but that their votes had not been counted.
“We have questioned Ms. Oh … as to how she can state categorically that the votes of particular people were not counted. What we gleaned from her was that since she had expected to receive 123 votes at least, some fraud must have occurred because she received only 57,” Justice Newbury said.
“Although Ms. Oh remains convinced that her “inspections” establish that some fraud occurred, she is unable to offer anything further than her evidence of conversations with people who, she says, voted for her.”
When she ran for mayor of Langley Township in 2014, Serena Oh finished a distant third behind winner Jack Froese and second place finisher Rick Green, collecting just under 1,300 ballots or less than six per cent of the vote.
At the time, she said she learned about the law when she represented herself during a drawn-out court battle with the municipality of Burnaby over an illegal suite.
The battle began when the city sued her in 2008 and she then counter-sued over what she said was harassment.
The case eventually went the Court of Appeal, which found for the city.
Oh attempted to appeal it to the Supreme Court of Canada, but said her application was dismissed.